Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Questions, Evolving Ones, about Love and Grief

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Questions, Evolving Ones, about Love and Grief

Article excerpt

Roger Rosenblatt has written a follow-up volume to his book about the death of his daighter. This one ranges farther afield and asks bigger questions.

Kayak Morning. Reflections on Love, Grief and Small Boats. By Roger Rosenblatt. 146 pages. Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers. Paper, $13.99; Pounds 8.99.

Emily Dickinson wrote: After great pain, a formal feeling comes - -

In Roger Rosenblatt's 2010 memoir, "Making Toast," he told what happened immediately after his 38-year-old daughter, Amy, died from an undiagnosed heart defect in December 2007. On the day she died, Mr. Rosenblatt and his wife left their house in Quogue on Long Island for Bethesda, Maryland, and moved in with Amy's husband and three young children. "How long are you staying?" Mr. Rosenblatt's 7- year-old granddaughter asked him the next day. "Forever," he answered.

The strength of Mr. Rosenblatt's narrative lay in its dry-eyed control, in the reserves of emotion he left readers to imagine underneath the anecdotes about his participation in the thousand ordinary tasks that three motherless children require every day. A longtime journalist, novelist, playwright and professor, Mr. Rosenblatt found a way to write glancingly yet fiercely about his family's collective shock and protective ingathering during the months after Amy's death. Small wonder that the book reached a widely sympathetic audience, and not only among the grieving.

Now Mr. Rosenblatt offers a follow-up volume, which takes place two and a half years later, during just one morning on a summer Sunday in Quogue. Although it's as brief as the previous book, this one ranges farther afield and asks bigger questions.

It's not a memoir but a meditation -- an expression of the formal feeling that follows great pain -- and it's not so much about grief as about grief's evolution over time. When he wrote "Making Toast," Mr. Rosenblatt explains, "I tried to suggest that the best one can do in a situation such as ours is to get on with it. I believe that still. What I failed to calculate is the pain that increases even as one gets on with it."

The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs --

In the early hours of a June morning in 2010, Mr. Rosenblatt sits in a kayak in Penniman's Creek, a little inlet that leads to the Quogue Canal. Back at the house, three generations of his family are still asleep; though he lives most of the year in Bethesda, his extended family gathers for summer vacations with him in Quogue, as they did before Amy died.

"They say that people in grief become more like themselves," he writes. "I have always been a loner, so going out in a kayak suits my temperament." That he sits, instead of walking on the beach or through the creekside stands of pine, suggests the ceremoniousness of a mourner; that he drifts suggests a mourner unmoored. …

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