In the last couple of weeks, I've read some sad, beautiful books. After attending a panel discussion at the Toronto Public Library where Helen Humphreys spoke, I picked up and read her most recent book, Nocturne: On the Life and Death of My Brother in an evening. It is an elegy for her younger brother, an accomplished concert pianist who died of pancreatic cancer in 2009.
And then there was a new Miriam Toews novel to read: All My Puny Sorrows. Like her other books, Toews' humour and straightforward writing style made me want to keep reading what might otherwise have been a tragic and too-sad story-- the protagonist's older sister, a world-renowned pianist, is suffering severe depression and wants to die. Difficult material already, but now consider: Miriam Toews' sister committed suicide in 2010.
It can be hard to start books that we know could upset us, but these books are as much, if not more, about what it means to love and be loved by a brother or sister as they are about losing them. Grief is a condition of love. And there is a lot of love to be found in these books.
Erin Bedford, writer.