Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect. ~ Luna Lovegood
Grief and loss are common focuses in literature. Be it the ‘off screen’ loss of parents so common in YA literature (conveniently absent parents allow for greater freedoms of plot) or the devastating death of a character within the pages, having a character deal with loss can be a heartbreaking, but also cathartic process for the reader (and, I imagine, for the writer).
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Not my favourite book – I thought the film was much better – but one of the scenes that didn’t make it into the film (because of the change they made to the ending) was the family coming to terms with the loss of their daughter. There’s a little bit where their other daughter laughs at something on TV, then immediately shuts up and starts feeling guilty, until her mother (I think, don’t quote me on that – I read it about ten years ago) tells her it’s okay, that her sister would have found it funny too.
For a book that was all schmaltz and shock twists, it was this low key moment that had me really reaching for the tissues. The idea that a family has to acclimatise to normal life again, making room for the gaping hole left by a family member enough that they are able to experience joy and laughter again, was elegantly shown in this scene.
Back to Blackbrick by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald
Of course, Dealing with Loss doesn’t have to be synonymous with death. Back to Blackbrick explores loss of a loved one through Alzheimer’s, and the tragedy of missing someone who is still right there in front of you.
Back to Blackbrick saw protagonist Cosmo go on a time travel quest to find out about his Grandfather’s past – to better test his memory in the future – proving that keeping memories alive, while no substitute for the real thing, does at least go some way to assuaging our grief.
From the Outside Perspective
The Dead Wife’s Handbook by Hannah Beckerman
All about dealing with loss, The Dead Wife’s Handbook is unusual in that it’s told entirely from the perspective of the dead wife, so not only are the living characters coming to terms with her death, but she is too, as well as having to come to terms with her family moving on.
Exploring loss in all its multitude varieties, this was a real ‘tug on the heartstrings’ novel that will have you going through all the five stages yourself. Rachel’s reactions are simultaneously selfless and selfish – exploring that ‘I want you to move on and have a happy life’ idea that anyone with a significant other has probably discussed at some point. At every point you understand her emotions, and at every point you feel her conflict. Which makes for raw, but really fascinating reading. (Incidentally, my Boyfriend said he wanted me to be miserable mourning him for the rest of his life. At least he’s honest about his egocentricity!)
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
I’d be very surprised if Beckerman didn’t draw some inspiration from The Lovely Bones – which takes a similar perspective, has similar depth of exploration of the theme, with the added layer of Susie mourning the loss of first love, the exploration of her sexuality and all those other rights of passage that young people go through that Susie, killed in her early teens, was denied.
Both books are really fantastic, though keep the tissues handy!