Publishers Weekly Reviews

In this wrenching memoir, Gerson, a historian and professor at New York University, grapples with unthinkable loss. He and his eight-year old son, Owen, were on a family rafting trip to Utah when father and son were thrown out of a small "duck boat" while navigating rapids on the Green River; Owen drowned. As he tries to find relief without dimming memory, Gerson turns to support groups, new routines, literature, history, and mysticism. Only with the death of his father two years later, and his wife's unexpected pregnancy, does Gerson begin to achieve a tentative acceptance of the unacceptable. Gerson writes honestly of his grief and guilt with an analytic distance that doesn't mask his suffering. Chapters narrating the events around Owen's death provide a counterpoint to those examining the accident's effects on Gerson's marriage, family, community, and his own sense of identity. The experience of 9/11 and a visit with his father to Belarus—where family members were murdered in the Holocaust—allow Gerson to contextualize his personal tragedy within the overwhelming history of human catastrophe. While asserting that one can never recover from the death of a child, Gerson evocatively describes the process of a struggle that allows him to continue living. (Jan.) Copyright 2016 Publisher Weekly.