Books of 2013 | Mid-April through May


In this span of a month and a half, I've managed to read two books by the same author without entirely meaning to. I picked up The News from Spain by Joan Wickersham before heading home to Georgia for a wedding at the end of April. I read the first story while I put off packing the night before my flight, and read the rest on the plane. Wickersham weaves the simple phrase "the news from Spain" into these heartbreaking love stories set all throughout history and all over the world. What strikes me most about this collection is that she explores more than just romantic love—though that is a major theme as well—but the kind of love that blooms from the nipped bud of romantic love. There is deep friendship that seals itself in the hearts of two broken women, between a man and a woman who reach beyond their roles as boss and servant to relate as the bearers of spurned and ignored love. They give each other what they cannot find in their significant others, finally releasing the affection building up just under their skin, accepting one another with grace and forgiveness. These were the stories that completed this book for me; these are the details of life that make every day full with possibility.

I finished the book and jumped from one collection to the next, not finishing anything. I read as much as I could of Sam Lipsyte's The Fun Parts and Jamie Quatro's I Want to Show You More, but neither of them were doing it for me. I'll return to them some other time. Then at the beginning of May, after making a promise to myself not to buy anything unnecessary for the month, I found The Suicide Index on the remainders shelf at Harvard Bookstore. It was only six dollars, and I clutched it like the continuation of my life depended on that purchase, but I requested it from the library instead, trying to create a new kind of muscle memory when it comes to spending money. A week later, it was ready for me at the library, and I dove in head first.

I should say that this book is not for the light-hearted. It is a messy, self-conscious, in-depth look at the suicide of her father. It is a memoir, not fiction. After reading the first section of the book, which is organized like an index, I hoped that it was a work of fiction, but alas, it's not. It is heartbreaking at times, and beautifully written and honest at all times. I hesitate to recommend this to anyone who has known the loss of suicide, but I also know the healing that can come from hearing another voice telling a story not very different from your own. Wickersham explores all of the emotions that surface after her father commits suicide: there is anger, delayed and stunned sadness, the guttural need to protect the memory of someone you love. The book is not told in a linear manner because, as Wickersham herself asks, how could it be? After her father's death, everything he ever said or did comes into question, gains new significance in the harsh light. While she does not attempt to make sense of it all through the book, she comes out on the other end recognizing that no longer trying to do so is a healing in its own right.

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