Monday, April 5, 2010

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

I recently read a quote by McCracken. I can't find it for the life of me but I'll do my best to paraphrase: I've always despised memoirs, especially the ones in which the author writes of surviving the worst possible thing. Then the worst possible thing happened to me, and I had to write about it.

This is a truth I see over and over in memoir - that the worst possible thing happens and it sits, festering, waiting to be transformed by the process of writing, by the telling. The magic of the memoir is that when that horribleness is finally organized into words and put on the page, the transformation that reaches into the writer also reaches out, seeping into the consciousness of the reader.

An Exact Replica is the difficult, beautifully told story of McCracken's first baby, who was stillborn. The author takes us deep into this journey with her, from the exciting before, to the stun of the news, right around her due date that the baby had died in utero, to the pall of the afterward. And although the afterward certainly takes us into the grief, and the adjustment, it also tells of the healthy baby that came after.

What Elizabeth McCracken went through was a worst case scenario, something too horrible to happen to anyone. Even though the specifics of her story may be different than our own tragedies, I think it's a fallacy that any of us ever make it through life dodging the worst case scenario bullet. By writing, in such stunningly honest detail, the painful truth of her own story, McCracken unites us all as we share in the transformation the telling brings.

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