Everyone deals with grief in their own way. For Carol Smith, a Pulitzer Prize nominated journalist struggling with the sudden death of her seven-year-old son, Christopher, the way to cross the river of sorrow was through work. In Crossing the River, Smith recounts how she faced down her crippling loss through reporting a series of profiles of people coping with their own intense challenges, whether a life-altering accident, injury, or diagnosis. These were stories of survival and transformation, of people facing devastating situations that changed them in unexpected ways.
Most grief tales turn inward. The author feels compelled to figure out why he or she has joined the worst club in the world, why death has come knocking and how to survive the insanity that follows. These books are written out of emotional and existential need. Surely some purpose will grow from this tragedy. Surely it's not all for naught. Carol Smith's "Crossing the River" checks all of those boxes. It's a shattering account of the brief life and sudden death of Smith's 7-year-old son, Christopher. Smith gleaned wisdom from her excruciating pain, and she's generous enough to share it with the reader. But that's just the jumping-off point ... The book's structure leaves room for Smith's story, which she weaves in and out of her subjects' tales. There's a lot of pain here, and a lot of guilt, which is rarely far behind grief. But there's also, to borrow the title of a Tracy Kidder book, strength in what remains. And hope, without which the rest would be academic.
Veteran reporter Smith crosses the river of grief with the help of courageous people facing difficult medical situations in this memoir-journalism mash-up ... Smith learns to face Christopher’s death, move forward with courage, and experience joy without guilt. This difficult yet hopeful reading journey will appeal to memoir fans and those interested in medical nonfiction.
As the author explored how someone accustomed to being in control of large-scale situations grappled with regaining such basic functions as balance and bodily movement, she was able to come to grips with her own need for control in a world where the only certainty was uncertainty. Her job at the Post-Intelligencer ended with the paper’s demise as a print publication, but the stories she collected from that time inform this intimate and humane narrative that should offer solace for readers who have experienced similar circumstances. An uplifting group of moving stories.