A Story of Grief

WordPress blogger Carol Balawyder‘s book Mourning Has Broken explores her grieving process after the death of her sister.

As with many griefs, Carol’s is entangled with her mourning over losing other relatives and friends and even her retirement. She writes:

I try to separate my sister’s loss from that of my mother, who died nine months before Diana. Daughter. Sister. They weave into each other by stitches on a quilt. To grieve the loss of a mother and a sister at the same time is more than the sum of the two parts.

Carol identifies her book as a memoir, but it’s not a memoir in the usual sense. Instead, it’s written in the form of lyrical essays. They are all stand-alone pieces, but together they function to give the book an arc, thereby making it a memoir in a nontraditional sense.

The journey of Carol’s grieving takes place against a spiritual landscape, but Carol herself is not a particularly religious person. That she keeps searching in religious and spiritual arenas shows me that she is a very spiritual person.  She refers to herself as an immature person on more than one occasion, but I found her to be a wise person in many respects.

The high point, or climax, of the book’s plot arc, occurs in the title essay “Mourning Has Broken.” In this piece, Carol’s new Reiki Master tells her that at the commemorative for Diana, Diana will give Carol a sign if Carol asks for one. When Carol’s sister gives her a sign it’s more powerful than imagined and has a profoundly healing effect on both Carol and on the reader going on this journey with Carol (the book’s protagonist I refer to here, rather than the actual Carol).

The writing style of the book is beautiful and distinctive, but I felt as if my best friend was sharing with me. I found myself very charmed by the book. I also made notes throughout the book, so that I can refer back to passages later.

All memoirs are part reflection and part storytelling, but the majority are heavier on the storytelling than the reflection. Lyrical essays tend to be heavier on reflection. In this book, Carol creates a perfect balance of the two (50-50? maybe), which I find fitting for the subject of living through grieving.

Carol’s book is the loveliest book about grief and mourning that I’ve read.


There are a few typos Carol’s editor left in the book, but Carol is cleaning them up in the Kindle edition. If you’re interested in reading Carol’s fiction, she has a story online at the literary journal carte blanche. You can find “The Witness” here. 


Filed under Book Review, Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing

28 responses to “A Story of Grief

  1. Thank you. Luanne, for reading my book and taking the time to write such a positive and tender review. I couldn’t ask for a better one. <3

  2. Thank you for this excellent review, Luanne. “…the loveliest book about grief and mourning that I’ve read.” confirms that I just have to read it. (already on my TBR list.)

    • Yes! I found myself admiring the writing style so much. It seemed just right and yet unique–a unique voice and way with words both–if that makes sense.

  3. Oooh put this one on the list! Thanks as always Luanne

  4. Based on your excellent review, Luanne, this sounds like a must read! I absolutely love the title. It sounds as though one might need a box of Kleenex handy as you read Carol’s book.

    • Yes, it’s sad, but it doesn’t overpower the reader in that way. It’s so lyrical and beautiful that the reader stays on her toes, curious about Carol’s next move.

  5. Ellen Morris Prewitt

    What a wonderful review — I am making a note of it for, as you said, those who might need it.

  6. Excellent review!

  7. Your review is flawless… 🙂 I would definitely read Carol’s book, I believe I do need it now ( some days I still find it difficult to believe my dad is gone, grief takes time…)

    Thanks for sharing the review with us Luanne! :0

  8. Your beautiful review of Carol’s book compels me to read it. I find it fascinating that you say writing memoir is at once reflection and storytelling. This struck me deeply as I turn my thoughts to the story I am writing, the story I need to tell. Carol’s book with her lyrical essays seems to me to be a must-read for anyone who is suffering any kind of grief. Thank you so much for sharing this with us Luanne.

    • Oh, I hope that does help you in writing your story, Sherri! Yes, we need to tell our stories, but to thread through some reflection in there. If you think of memoirs that read like novels, they tend to have less reflection, and ones that read like lyrical essays have much reflection in them. It took me a long time to figure this out because I wanted to just tell my stories without reflection and without “swaying” the reader LOL.

      • This helps me greatly Luanne, thank you again. The story telling IS in the reflection and that is a beautiful thing indeed! Oh I am enjoying our ‘chats’ so much… 🙂

  9. You know, Luanne, when you tell us what you learned from reading these memoirs, we learn with you. I’ll never be able to read all these books but I so appreciate you sharing your insights. I love hearing about all the different styles and structures for memoirs. It’s inspirational. Keep ’em coming!

    • That’s thrilling to hear that the reviews are inspiring you, mm! You have a fascinating story to tell, and it’s exciting that you’ve been writing memoir posts!!

  10. This was a wonderful review, Luanne! I especially liked the part about reading it felt like sharing a heartbreaking story with a special friend. I will need to read this someday, since I admire and love Carol, too! This is something that would have been hard to live through, let alone write about! I cannot imagine losing my mother in a short time losing a brother (I don’t have any sisters). Siblings are hard to survive the loss, let alone losing a ‘rock’ like a Mom! Hugs for Carol and some for you, too! Excellent review! ~Robin

    • Robin, you will love getting to know Carol even better in this book. Yes, put it at the top of your list! Thank you, Robin. I need those hugs especially this week. And some back for you :).

  11. Luanne you have a gift of writing very informative and helpful reviews I really enjoy your take on the books you read. None of us get a free pass when it comes to loss. This book sounds like one for my list thank you.

    • Well put. No, none of us does get a free pass. And loss can come in so many guises. This past week a terrible tragedy happened in my extended family (not sure if I’m going to blog about it or not as it’s so horrific and fresh) and although the worst losses are not my own, the sense of loss I feel is huge anyway. If that makes any sense . . . .

      • It does make sense Luanne I have experienced all kinds of loss, one where I got to say my goodbyes to my Father and one where it tore me apart when my Brother took his own life, we never know whats around the next corner and so I live life in appreciation of the smallest of gifts.

        • You’re an inspiration to me and a reminder to “live life in appreciation of the smallest of gifts.” yes, so well put. I’m so sorry for your losses. xo

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