Garrison Keillor wrote, “If you lose a brother, improvise.” Dear Boy, An Epistolary Memoir is likewise an improvisational work, a lyric memoir written in fragments. Letters interspersed with vignettes of third-person narration capture the trajectory of a family story in which the narrator attempts to reconcile herself to the truth of relationships gone awry and the death of a brother. The memoir peers upon the universal issues of human loss, longing, and grief and praises the unexpected beauties left to be discovered in the wake of such sorrows.
I wrote you an email last year, addressed to your tattoo shop. Did you ever get it? It was about our cousin’s wedding—you were invited, but she didn’t know where to send the invitation. You know, your house really was out in the middle of nowhere. How many houses are there in that tiny town, anyway—five? And a church? And some railroad tracks? And just a little bit up from the churchyard, that narrow country road where you landed after flying out of a car.
You never saw this house I live in, and you’d been living in your home for years before I ever visited. We weren’t too busy, but were we scared to act like brother and sister? Today I was thinking that it’s still July, a few weeks before your blood marked the gravel with a great brown stain, but the leaves on the silver maple in my front yard have turned sunny gold speckled with mildew. Meaning the accident already happened. Too late for me to ask you how the distance between us unfurled, why your once-tight grip on my hand loosened into a flat, retracted palm.
Too late now—but death demands an account. The closer the death, the more detailed its demands. And all this accounting I must do with you, Boy, is like sending a hundred years’ worth of birthday cards and getting none in return. But so it will be. I have no other way to speak to you.
“Weber gives us a template for re-examination, analysis, self-confrontation, meditation, even forgiveness. Even self-forgiveness.”
—from Judith Kitchen’s Introduction
Heather Weber blogs about life, faith, and parenting at www.onravenstreet.com and writes for ForeWord Reviews. She is a credentialed minister and associate pastor at LIFEchurch in North Liberty, Iowa, where she lives with her husband and three energetic daughters. A hippie in disguise, she dabbles in organic gardening; ferments coconut milk, beets, and cabbage on her countertop (not all together!); and loves to refinish furniture in unexpected ways. Her favorite parenting activity is reading aloud to her girls in front of the fire on winter nights (Narnia, anyone?). She thrives on deep friendships (necessary as water), and she feels she’s in exactly the right place when helping to sort out the tangly bits of life with people in her community and congregation.
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