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

My God, this book was sad. It was so, so, so sad. It was just so unrelentingly sad. Even when she wasn’t particularly talking about anything sad, still it was incredibly sad. I cried a lot, especially at the end. And I’ve never even had a baby! Imagine if I had had a baby and I read this book, which is Elizabeth McCracken’s memoir about how her baby was stillborn. That would have been way much even sadder.

However, it was well-written and interesting. And it had lots of good bits, and Elizabeth McCracken endeared herself to me forever and ever and ever by saying this about New Orleans from her visit there in 2007 (I believe it was 2007):

Spring had arrived just ahead of us, in the form of actual blossoms – magnolias – and the weird kudzu of flung-from-floats Mardi Gras beads in the trees. The city was all blue skies and light breezes and raw nerves and melancholy. Most everyone we met was on edge, some so heartsick we worried, even if we hadn’t met them before. They seemed frozen. Something had happened. It had been a year and a half, and if you weren’t in the middle of it you might lose patience: New Orleans, why can’t you get over it? We were very sorry for you for a while. Now there are other things to be sad about. It’s not your time anymore. Pull yourself together.

Of course it felt familiar, as wretchedly presumptuous as that sounds. … The people we saw, old friends and strangers, had left and come back, and now they were waiting for the next disaster, the next murder, the next hurricane, the next levee failure, the loss of their home, the revocation of their homeowner’s insurance, and still of course at the same time they had to hope. Hadn’t they come back for that reason, because they hoped?

Me, too: same place, remembering the disaster, trying to believe it would not come for me again.

Ouch. It made me sad to read that. Poor New Orleans. That whole “City That Care Forgot” thing now depresses me hugely. But as a Louisiana girl I was glad she said that, and as a girl from a high-anxiety family I was glad she said this:

Our religion is worry; we performed decades of it.

And this was good:

Now what I think that woman in Florida meant is: lighter things will happen to you, birds will steal your husband’s sandwich on the beach, and your child will still be dead, and your husband’s shock will still be funny, and you will spend your life trying to resolve this.

As for me, I believe that if there’s a God – and I am as neutral on this subject as is possible – then the most basic proof of His existence is black humor. What else explains it, that odd, reliable comfort that billows up at the worst moments, like a beautiful sunset woven out of the smoke over a bombed city.

Elizabeth McCracken is a good writer, so I enjoyed reading the book, but it was very, very, very sad, and I will probably never find it necessary to read it again. Still, I really liked the things she said about grief – so maybe I will read it again. I can’t decide. This is the second (or third?) book this month that I’ve read about on Caribousmom‘s website and then really liked a lot, so thanks for that!

  • Jenny – thanks for the kudos 🙂 I’m glad I am helping to steer you toward books you like. I agree – this is a sad, sad memoir…but it is also one filled with hope and for me (who dealt with infertility) it was a comfort knowing someone else was able to confront their grief and move forward in spite of it. I love the passages you pulled out…McCracken’s use of language was so beautifully done, wasn’t it?

  • jennysbooks

    It really is. I’ve put holds on her books at the library, and I’m really looking forward to reading them.