An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination – Elizabeth McCracken

Title: An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination: A Memoir
Author: Elizabeth McCracken
ISBN: 0316027677
Pages: 192
Release Date: September 10, 2008
Genre: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Review: Hachette Book Group Blog Tour
Rating: ***** (out of 5)

From the dust jacket:

A prizewinning, successful novelist in her thirties, Elizabeth McCracken was happy to be an itinerant writer and self-proclaimed spinster. Then she fell in love, got married, and continued her life of writing, traveling, and teaching with her husband. Two years ago, she found herself in a remote part of France, waiting for the birth of her first child.

This book is about wht happens next. In the ninth month of her pregnancy, a baby is lost. Just over a year later, a baby is born. In a profoundly moving display of humor, heart, and unfailing generosity, McCracken tenderly presents her story.

It is a story of truelove and unfathomable sadness. It is a story of courageous recovery and bittersweet moments, of steadfast memories and deep affection. It is a story of the importance of friendship. It is a story of happienss and of hope.

Anyone who has ever experienced loss or loves someone who has, will hope to go on with the company of this remarkable book.

Any reader who visits this blog on a regular basis knows that I don’t often give out 5 star ratings. 4 and a half, yes, but not 5. To me, 5 stars means “perfect” – it doesn’t have to be perfectly written or the perfect storyline, but it needs to speak with me on a deeper level; I need to get it, and it needs to get me.

I’ve never had a baby. That may be in the cards one day, but it’s not something my husband and I have planned for anytime soon. So you might ask: how can this book, about a woman who loses her unborn child, speak to me?

The answer? I don’t know. But what I can tell you is that this book is amazing. It is simple and beautiful; a tribute to a child that didn’t quite make it into the world. It is a work of enduring and unconditional love from a mother to a child. Though I haven’t been a mother, I have been a child and I have seen the quality of that love firsthand. It pours from each page, love and grief mixed into one.

However, somehow the book is still joyful and full of hope. On every page, as the reader takes in McCracken’s unfathomable sense of loss, there is also hope. Don’t get me wrong – it is sometimes difficult to read. I found myself tearing up more than once. But the book is so unflinchingly honest, so real, that it feels like real life. There are all the emotions present, mixed in with the grief.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It is beautifully written, honest, emotional, and full of the wonder of life. It is McCracken’s tribute to her unborn child, so that she, and everyone else, will always remember what she had and what she lost.

I’ll end this interview with a question I posed to McCracken, and her wonderful answer:

Me: What made you want to write a book about something so personal and tragic as the loss of a child? Was it something you originally wrote for yourself, as a way to deal with your grief, or did you always mean to share it with others?

Elizabeth: All along I knew I would eventually write something about my lost first child, but when I got pregnant the second time I just couldn’t do it. Of course I was regularly visited by worries and nightmares: I wasn’t prepared to invite them in. So once my second child was three weeks old and healthy, I started writing. I don’t know what I thought I was working on. Notes? Blather? A private diary? I was sleep deprived and ecstatic and yet still griefstruck. Writing plain made me feel better. It turned the shadows into words. It helped me know I felt. In some ways it felt like a return to my earliest years of writing fiction seriously, I wrote it in such strange privacy. I didn’t even tell my friends I was doing it. Because I write books, what I wrote came out moderately book-shaped, but practically everything about it is accidental. Deciding to publish it was completely separate. I’m glad it was that way. I think if I’d thought I’d publish it, I would have never written it, if you know what I mean.

This blog tour continues at A Bookworm’s World – a big thank you to Miriam at Hachette!

Comments

  1. Oh, you’re so right – this is a fantastic book.

  2. That was a really insightful question to ask her – thanks for posting that. I like your review 🙂

  3. I agree with Corinne. What a good question! Great review.

  4. Thank you for participating in this blog tour. If ever word needed to be spread about a book, this is certainly it. I think your comments are sensitive and beautiful. This sounds like a truly remarkable book.

  5. A lovely review. I believe it IS possible for someone who has not had a child to *get* this memoir.

  6. My typical reading lists consist of vampire books, horror books, sci-fi, and spy novels, but after reading your review of this book it sounds like a book I’d like to read. It sounds like quite a read, and your question to the author was well thought out too. Thanks for the preview of the book!! It’s wonderful to get someone else’s take on a book. I eventually want to start blogging about the books I read as well, but I haven’t decided whether I want to just add a webpage to my current website or if I want to start a completely new website.

  7. I don’t know how I missed your review of this book – but it is fantastic. I was completely blown away by this memoir – one of the best (and most moving) books I’ve read in a very long time. I reviewed it on my blog here.

  8. Anonymous says:

    After reading a positive review on the NPR website about this book a few weeks ago, I picked it up from the library along with an armload of other books. And yet, it sat on my shelf unopened. untouched, avoided. Unread. I just kept putting it off. The pile dwindled; the other books got returned; it got renewed, still virginal. How could I have thought that I would ever want to read a book about such a heart-rending subject?

    But yesterday, I forced myself to start, remembering that positive review. And I could not put the book down. It is not so much about the stillbirth, but rather about everything that surrounds it: hope and despair, excitement and foreboding, guilt and forgiveness, incomprehension and a refusal to submit to platitudes about death. It is about grief and loss, the kindness of others – and their insensitivity, too. It is about a love between a husband and wife, a love that did not falter amidst such tragedy. It is deeply wise, hauntingly well-written, filled with unforgettable metaphors. The structure of the story-telling reflects life: it starts out and turns back in upon itself. We know from the beginning that the baby dies and yet we do not experience that birth until the end of the book. We see, too, how our lives run on parallel tracks as the new pregnancy accompanies the fresh grief of the old.

    McCracken says that “closure is bullshit.” Bullshit: that is what is so lacking in this book. It is searingly honest. When I finished the book, I could not figure out how my emotions were so deeply touched and yet the ultimate emotion was not sadness. All I can tell you is that in some way, a way that I can’t figure out, this book, without a being maudlin or sentimental, touched me deeply.

  9. Anonymous says:

    After reading a positive review on the NPR website about this book a few weeks ago, I picked it up from the library along with an armload of other books. And yet, it sat on my shelf unopened. untouched, avoided. Unread. I just kept putting it off. The pile dwindled; the other books got returned; it got renewed, still virginal. How could I have thought that I would ever want to read a book about such a heart-rending subject?

    But yesterday, I forced myself to start, remembering that positive review. And I could not put the book down. It is not so much about the stillbirth, but rather about everything that surrounds it: hope and despair, excitement and foreboding, guilt and forgiveness, incomprehension and a refusal to submit to platitudes about death. It is about grief and loss, the kindness of others – and their insensitivity, too. It is about a love between a husband and wife, a love that did not falter amidst such tragedy. It is deeply wise, hauntingly well-written, filled with unforgettable metaphors. The structure of the story-telling reflects life: it starts out and turns back in upon itself. We know from the beginning that the baby dies and yet we do not experience that birth until the end of the book. We see, too, how our lives run on parallel tracks as the new pregnancy accompanies the fresh grief of the old.

    McCracken says that “closure is bullshit.” Bullshit: that is what is so lacking in this book. It is searingly honest. When I finished the book, I could not figure out how my emotions were so deeply touched and yet the ultimate emotion was not sadness. All I can tell you is that in some way, a way that I can’t figure out, this book, without a being maudlin or sentimental, touched me deeply.

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