What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons


Absolutely stunning. This book wowed me. It was both deeply analytical/academic and completely visceral. It’s the story of a young woman dealing with her mother’s death, and the descriptions of grief are truly astonishing, the kind of writing that pulls you in and doesn’t let you go. It was honest, unrelenting, painful, and beautifully written. Side by side with this intimate experience of one woman’s grief, we also get her self-examination and her analysis of both herself and the world. The narrator, Thandi, cuts open just about everything that matters in modern America: race, class, gender politics, family politics, marriage, pregnancy, motherhood, identity.

This book felt more like a memoir than a novel. It’s told in a series of short vignettes and moments– some a few pages, some only a sentence. It felt both deeply personal and far-ranging. The narrator had a kind of thoughtfulness, self-awareness and insight that I associate with the best memoirs. And yet, it still worked as a novel. There was tension, action, forward momentum, a narrative arc, characters that felt fully developed. I couldn’t put it down, even though I wanted to savor it.

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