Reading Ann Hood's best-selling novel The Knitting Circle, I sensed that she was doing exactly what aspiring writers are told to do: She was writing what she knew well: Knitting, friendship, life's challenges—and losses. What I didn't realize as I read her wonderful novel was that she held a deeper, far more intimate story that was begging to be told. Comfort: A Journey Through Grief is that very personal story about the sudden loss of Hood's five-year-old daughter Grace. With the kind of raw emotion that only a survivor of such grief can share, she journeys back to the events that define her losses and finds light and hope in what seems to be a hopelessly dark place.
In a searing prologue bearing the same title as the book ("Comfort"), Hood begins and ends with the thought that "Time heals," methodically listing the comments that people made to her in the aftermath of Grace's death. Interspersed among the well-intentioned words of others, Hood writes her own rebuttals and rebukes of them. "Once you have lived through all of the firsts, it will get better." ... "Are you writing down how you feel?" "But I cannot write. I cannot think of anything but her." ... "She is in a better place." But how can a five-year-old little girl be in a better place without her mother?" "Are you writing any of this down?" "Only the lies people tell me. There are no words for the size of this grief. There are only lies."
By the time I finished reading the prologue, her words clutched my heart and threatened to never let go.
They say that writing about such pain is therapeutic. I say that reading this book is also therapeutic. As a mother and a nurse, I cannot imagine having to make sense of the loss of a young and healthy child. Likewise, I cannot imagine having to function and move forward after such a shock. Hood reveals just how terribly difficult it is to go anywhere but inward.
"In the days and weeks and months that followed, I told these details over and over and over to anyone who would listen. Repeating them made the story which seemed unbeliebable still, real. It was as if by repeating the details I cold somehow understand them, understand what had happened to Grace, to our family." (Chapter Two: Knitting Lessons).
This book will take you on an emotional ride unlike any other. I have emerged from the pages of this book with an incredible ache for Hood's loss but also with joy for her renewed hope for the future, in her adopted daughter, Annabelle.
Written with grace and brutal honesty, Comfort has touched my life and is sure to touch the lives of all who read about Ann Hood's powerful journey.
Ann Hood is the author of nine novels, including The Knitting Circle. She has written for Tin House, O The Oprah Magazine and The Paris Review. She and her family reside in Rhode Island. Visit her website.
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