Friday, April 30, 2010

Book Review: An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken, read by the author

first, a personal aside: several years ago my best friend lost her son who was six days old. I heard about this book when it first came out two years ago and while I really wanted to read it, I needed still a little more time. Before this happened to my friend, I could read these kinds of books from a distance, but not anymore, by a longshot.

Novelist Elizabeth McCracken's first son was stillborn. She does tell you right off the bat that she does successfully have a second child, but of course he will never replace her first child. This book is visceral, not just heart-wrenching but like going into your chest with a dull knife, ripping out your heart, jumping up and down on it for a bit, and then pouring salt on it. Rarely has anyone so eloquent written about something so tremendously sad. From my point of view as a bystander to a similar situation, this rang extraordinarily true.

I was initially impressed that the author was narrating this audiobook herself. I had previously listened to The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, and she had a different narrator (although a brilliant one). I thought it could be too hard on her. Unlike Magical, where the narrator's voice occasionally trembled with so much emotion, in Replica, Ms. McCracken keeps a firm grip on her emotions, even as she reads about the most horrible days of her life. At first I felt it wasn't as personal, but in the end, it actually made the narration even more personal. You could feel her biting back her emotions and her ironclad steadiness broke my heart even more, as I could still feel her pain through her stoicism. Sometimes watching (hearing) a person maintain a stiff upper lip through tragedy can be the most heartbreaking thing of all.

I teared up a couple of times while listening to this book, and I am not a person who cries easily. I'd like to thank Ms. McCracken for allowing us to hear her story and share in her sorrow. And I once again am very thankful, as The Mighty Mighty Bosstones say, "Have you ever been close to tragedy or close to folks who have... I never had to knock on wood, but I know someone who has, which makes me wonder if I could, it makes me wonder if I ever had to knock on wood, and I'm glad I haven't yet, because I'm sure it isn't good, that's the impression that I get." That song was running through my mind when the audiobook was over.

This book is a part of the Audiosynced roundup of audio book reviews at Stacked. She'll have a post May 1 with the full list.


Emidy @ Une Parole said...

Hello, I'm here from the Hop and just became a follower!

Wow, this sounds like such an emotional book. I'd cry for sure.

from Une Parole

Missy B. said...

I have this one on my wish list!

I'm hopping by a day late from The Hop to say Hi! My favorite reads are also memoirs/contemporary fiction.

It is so nice to meet you....I'm a new follower as well.

Carin Siegfried said...

Emidy, this is definitely a 3-hanky book. Have some Kleenex ready!