Reading Matters

No one writes about loss like Jill Bialosky

I’m a great fan of Jill Bialosky, a New York poet, essayist, editor and novelist. Knocking around on the Internet recently, I happened on an essay of hers in Slate. “Two Kinds of Goodbye” opens with her sadness about dropping her son off at college and flows into memories of the deaths of her two premature infants. http://Two Kinds of Goodbye.

Bialosky describes her love for her son – “physical, tangible, fierce,” – who is adopted, and whom she will miss terribly. Then, “My love for the babies who died is more ethereal. Our losses transform us in ways that are impossible to know or understand.”

The poignant essay is so Bialosky, so rich with recollected sorrow. In an interview once she told me that a poetry teacher had given her the advice to write about what hurts. She does so brilliantly.

I also read her "History of a Suicide: My Sister's Unfinished Life" (Simon & Schuster, $24), a book that helped me better understand the suicide of a 40-year-old cousin in 1985.

No one I know writes about loss with Bialosky’s startling grace.

Her recent novel -- her third -- “The Prize” (Counterpoint, $25) is also about loss. But it’s at more of a remove for Bialosky. The protagonist is a man, Edward Darby, a partner in a prestigious art gallery. He’s a husband, as well as father to a young daughter. He seems to have everything. But what Darby has lost is something vital: his ability to own his own feelings, to live fully inside his skin. When he falls in love with one of the gallery’s most esteemed artists, he begins to find his way back into his own life. Will he lose his family in the process of finding himself? You must read “The Prize” and find out.