Monday, July 28, 2008

review of A Year and a Day by Michael Corrigan

Enough about me and politics for awhile. Here is the review of the latest book by one of my favorite writers. It's not available on Amazon, unfortunately, so anyone interested in reading this fine book will have to order it through the Idaho State Univerity Press.

A Year and A DayBy Michael Corrigan
ISBN 0-937834-76-9
236 pages at 17.95 paperback + $3 s&h
Idaho State University Press
921 So. 8th Ave, Stop 8265
Pocatello ID 83209

Michael Corrigan personifies the romanticized vision of what an Irishman should be: musical, humorous, a gifted performer and wordsmith, blessed by the blarney stone and the love of his life. The last thing he expected was to lose his adoring wife, an accomplished professional and beautiful compassionate woman whose "bright light was blown out forever."

When Karen Lea Smith Corrigan died unexpectedly from a brain aneurysm in September 2005, life as he knew it ended. The day of her death he prays for lightning to strike and incinerate him. When that relief does not come, he continues as a grieving ghost -- stunned, numb, shattered, separated from reality, and alone in his grief. From that awful beginning of life without Karen, he embarks on a year and a day of traditional Irish mourning. His existence without her is all raw nerve endings and aches and pains. Somehow, he survives the early days of her loss. Corrigan returns to teaching at the University. He sees a grief therapist and begins a journal in hopes of helping others cope with such awful loss. With compelling honesty, he questions her death and struggles with memories:
"I wish her soul would return on All Souls Day, or any time. I would tell her I loved her and probably should have said it more often… She often mentioned that others admired her work and I think she expected me to say, "Yes, you are the consummate professional." I did believe that but never felt the need to say it. She didn't need validation for her gifts, or so I thought. Perhaps that was a mistake. After such sudden death, there is that "What if?" syndrome and the nagging question: Why didn't I praise her more or tell her the truth -- that I worshipped her this side of idolatry?
If at some time I found the ability to stare into the seeds of time and saw what was about to happen, I would have withheld nothing. Could any intervention have saved her? There is the possibility that Karen's fatal condition was inevitable…but knowing that any second could be our last together might have shaped how we lived."

You'll find no meaningless buzz words here, like "closure" or "healing" and no empty platitudes. Corrigan faces his losses head on and claws his way through because he believes his life with Karen is worth the grief. Each day is a struggle, a battle to celebrate her life and survive her death. This journal is Michael Corrigan's attempt to honor Karen's memory with his honest sharing of grief. Anniversaries, holidays, remembered rituals and joys, pain, regret, and panic are all laid out truthfully in a way he hopes will help others suffering from loss. Highly recommended to all adult readers, especially those reeling from the loss of someone they love.

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I enjoy good writing by writers and poets who are not famous. My mother said I was born a hundred years too late. The older I get, the more I realize how right she was.

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