Friday, February 3, 2017

What I've Been Reading: Disaster Falls: A Family Story

The book I've been wanting to tell you about has been released! Disaster Falls: A Family Story chronicles a family's loss of their 8 year old son in a rafting accident. I love how the title doesn’t just represent the name of the accident site, but also that disaster has befallen this small family, and they must figure out a way to make it through. 

There are many parallels to my own family, but I believe this book is an excellent read for ANYONE, regardless of life experience. We will all face loss, whether the shocking, out of order death of a child, or the more expected death of parents, grandparents, and eventually spouses. Told from the father's point of view, with a chronology that takes you back and forth in the family's history, Disaster Falls does an excellent job of showing how each member in a family grieves differently. It also covers the death of the author's father, with whom he had a contentious and complicated relationship. 

There were so many a-ha moments for me in this book, not the least of which is when Gerson details, without judgment, the different ways in which people did/did not reach out to comfort him, and the various ways he and his wife tried to find their footing. The author is a historian, and I love the way he brings the history of the river and waterfall into the story. While my book, Rare Bird, captures the anguish and messy rawness of early grief, Gerson’s book is more restrained in a way that reminds me of Paul Kalinithi’s When Breath Becomes Air.  It is poignant and eloquent, and never goes for shock value. Disaster Falls is not just another sad story, but a beautifully written LIFE story, as a father uses his memories, journals, and experience as a historian and researcher to grapple with his son’s death.

(affiliate links included for your convenience)


Kathy said...

Thank you for the book recommendation! I will read it. I am almost finished reading your book. Thank you for writing and sharing of Jack. Your story is so well written. You are a great author. Hope to see more books from you :). Have a great day!
Kathy H.

Jenn said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Anna. I, of course, loved your book and When Breath Becomes Air was one of the best books I read last year. I'm ordering this one now and anxiously awaiting your next one - you know - that I'm sure you have all kinds of time to write with Miracle Baby scooting around. :-) Have a great weekend!

Lea said...

Thank you so much for the recommendation. So far your book Rare Bird has helped me the most with my grief. Looking forward to reading this one. Everyone's story helps.

Lea said...

Thank you for the recommendation. Your book Rare Bird helped me SO MUCH when I lost my daughter. I am looking forward to reading this one next. Everyone's story helps heal.

pollylu said...

I am reading this now and I agree it is a careful detailed account of loss, grief and love.

Anonymous said...

Scanning a few pages of Disaster Falls, I can't help but notice how similar all the expressions of condolence are in our culture. Almost always well-meaning but over half the time offering the opposite of comfort. I die a little inside when I remember the inappropriate words of condolence I have myself uttered in the past. Oh the shame! (Pray God I never make those mistakes again.) It's like all our neuroses, our denial, our small and large mental illnesses are triggered by a friend's sudden grief and the bereaved is stuck coping with the boiling over of everyone else's crazy nonsense ON TOP OF their own bottomless pain. So unfair.

There really is nothing to say except "I'm so sorry" and to sit with the person as long as they need it and to cry with them. Presence is best. As long as it is accompanied by the shutting of our traps. ;)

I think it's so important to talk about grief experiences in our society, not as a way of staying locked in that experience but in fact to offer a roadmap out of it. Maybe not a roadmap, but travel tips, emotional rest stops, suggestions for new vistas. It's one of the reasons I really liked the film Manchester by the Sea. It doesn't hide from grief. It's right there -- front and center.

In a larger sense, I have a hard time understanding why we are meant to suffer so much. My faith is not particularly shakeable and yet I feel a resentful about all this suffering. It can seem like unnecessary cruelty and sadism in many situations and I struggle to understand a divine universe that insists on it. I cling to this: "good and evil will not be separated until they are separated by God after the harvest in another world. Here on earth, they indissolubly joined to each other. This is a scandal for the weak or for the unintelligent of whom Pascal speaks. but it is a necessity. It comes from the very nature of this transitory world. A life subject to duration and death cannot be conceived of otherwise; mixture is the law of the temporal. It is unavoidable that this transitory world, where we have the two-fold duty of accepting life as long as it lasts and consenting to death when it comes, should be compounded of good and evil. For it were only evil, how could we consent to live? And if it were only good, how could we resign ourselves to dying?" joseph marie perrin