Obit by Victoria Chang

“The obituary writer said that the obituary is the moment when a someone becomes history.”

5/5 stars.
ebook, 115 pages.
Read from September 10, 2020 to Sept 14, 2020 and from November 19, 2020 to November 27, 2020

The beautiful thing about reading is that it plays many roles and serves a multitude of purposes. Reading allows everything from escapism to learning, opening up your mind to a new world view or a way to open up your heart to feelings you’ve compartmentalised. Especially good poetry, that seems to be its specialty.

“The way grief is really about future absences.”

p. 18, Obit

I can’t remember how I found this book. It feels like it found me. The first time I read it was nearing the one year anniversary of a death that I had still hadn’t come to terms with. I read the book, noted its form, and enjoyed its content. I even related to it but it wasn’t enough to pull me out of the protective grief-shell of denial I had surrounded myself in. The second time I decided to read this book, the anniversary was fresh but had passed but something had changed in that time. It’s like I was finally able to process some of my grief because just enough time had passed making the pain less sharp. I was able to drop my shell, just a little bit.

When I revisited this book for the second time it was with unclouded eyes and a heart that was little bit more open to the pain and beauty it would bring.

The way our sadness is plural, but grief singular.

p. 32, Obit

Obit is written in the style of a newspaper obituary with each section detailing the death of the author’s mother, the grief and pain of her father’s dementia, as well as parts of herself as it too died. Written in the freshness of the loss of her mother, Victoria Chang spent the next two week putting her grief and all of her losses into words in the form of obituaries. Having now lost both of her parents, her father first, her words carry the weight of the author’s loss. She discusses the shared familiarity of sadness yet the loneliness of grief. The otherness she shares with her family and her friends as well as the discussions she has with her children take shape within the poems. She also discusses the loss of different parts of her father literally as well as through carefully thought out metaphors as she slowly loses the man she knew to dementia.

It’s true, the grieving speak a different language. I am separated from my friends by gauze. I will drive myself to my own house for the party. I will make small talk with myself, spill a drink on myself. When it’s all over, I will drive myself back to my own home.

p. 23, Obit

Maybe that’s what happens when language fails, a last breath inward but no breath outward. A state of holding one’s breath forever but not dying.

p. 20, Obit

This small book of poetry sums up grief in a concise way that really only those who know loss will understand. It’s healing and refreshing to know that though our grief is unique and can’t be shared at least there are some relatable features in its loneliness.

The men had dug up the dirt stood with their shovels and waited. I looked at their eyes for and sign of drowning. Then I noticed that one man’s body didn’t have a shadow. And when he walked away, the grass didn’t flatten. His shovel was clean. I suddenly recognised this man as love.

p.22, Obit

The format that Chang has chosen takes on a numb familiarity which not unlike the numbness that comes with the immediacy of fresh grief. The writing feels formal like an obituary but is the opposite of many obituaries in its honest emotion.

Like grief, the way it dangles from everything like earrings. The way grief needs oxygen. The way every once in a while, it catches the light and starts smoking. The way my grief will die with me. The way it will cleave and grow like antlers.”

p. 50, Obit

Chang acknowledges how grief changes a person, how there is no going back from this loss that feels so earth-shattering and how grief becomes this ever changing omnipresent entity in your life that you have so little control over.

To acknowledge death is to acknowledge that we must take another shape.

p. 28, Obit

I don’t remember the last time a book of poetry so aptly captured such raw feelings, especially my own. Chang writes in such a concise and visceral manner that makes her approach to grief accessible for even those who are stone-resolved in denying it. Chang’s work is a stunning tribute to grief. It’s personal and intimate yet highly relatable. I would recommend this book to anyone going through the grieving process, no matter where you’re sitting with it.

Monstress, Vol 2: The Blood by Marjorie M. Liu

I went head first into this volume with high expectations, thankfully I had no reason to be concerned.

4/5 stars.
ebook, 156 pages.
Read from July 10, 2020 to July 14, 2020.

After quickly devouring the first volume, I went head first into this volume with high expectations, thankfully I had no reason to be concerned.

After attempting to control the demon-being within her, Maika has sacrificed the remaining parts of her arm but without much luck. In the previous volume, Maika believes she has extracted revenge for the death of her mother and then decides to continue down the path to see what her mother knew about this demon that is living inside of her and the Arcanic symbol she bares. With the help of a relative and some new found pirate friends Maika is able to travel to the dangerous Isle of Bones. She comes to learn about the power a Shamanic Empress that had once terrified Arcanics and humans a like, a power which is still being sought…

For the first time, you start to get a glimpse past Maika’s hard and unmoving exterior and being to see the trauma that she has endured. You get brief glimpses in to Maika’s past and family life with the story slowly builds. It is difficult to watch how Maika treats the young Kippa, who is a gentle and giving character who started following Maika in the last volume after being rescued from slavery. Maika is cruel and in all appearances indifferent to Kippa, even though deep down she cares. Maika is likely mirroring the relationship with er mother and is afraid to make deep connections and friendships.

This volume is a slow burner that leaves you wanting to jump right into the next volume (which I did). The only issue I had with this volume was the same as the first volume, you’re literally drowning in lore. It’s great but it is difficult to take in at times.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

“It was up to him to pay back to the world in beauty and caring what Leslie had loaned him in vision and strength. ”

4/5 stars.
197ebook, 208 pages.
Read from January 24, 2020 to Janaury 29, 2020

I had never even heard of this book until a few years ago. It kept coming up in a few blogs in lists as one of those life-changing novels that you read in your youth. You know the ones, books like Harry Potter, The OutsidersThe GiverSpeak, Tuck Everlasting, and Where The Red Fern Grows. Perhaps this book was read more in the US than it was in Canada as it didn’t reach my repertoire as a kid. I wish, however, it had.

Bridge to Terabithia was originally published in 1977 and follows the story of Jess Aarons. Jess and his family don’t have much but he has been training all summer to be the fastest runner in fifth grade. What he doesn’t expect is that a new kid, a girl named Leslie, while absolutely whoop him and all the other fifth graders on day one. While Jess was initially annoyed at losing, especially after he trained to so hard, he comes to form a formidable bond with this fearless new girl who has come from the city. The two of them create a magical place called Terabithia at tree past a stream behind Jess’ house. It’s a magical place that the two of them rule over in which they can dream and imagine. The two, despite coming from very different homes become inseparable. However, a tragedy occurs that changes Jess and their story forever.

“Sometimes it seemed to him that his life was delicate as a dandelion. One little puff from any direction, and it was blown to bits.”

I’ve read reviews of people who have never forgotten how this book made them feel when they read it as a kid and their utter devastation at the loss of one of the characters, however, I still didn’t expect the outcome and was shook when I came to the tragic point in the story. I can see now how devastating a story like this would have been for a kid reading this for the first time as even I was taken back. The story manages to breach the topic of death, loss, and grief in a way that is tangible for a young mind. Unless tragedy touched you in your own youth, chances are you never gave a second thought to death even if you watched or read about it in other mediums. There is something special about this book with the way that death is approached and how the characters cope afterwards that really drives the point home. I could see this book being helpful for a youth dealing with tragedy themselves as it depicts well someone with minimal understanding or experience of death might cope or approach a tragedy. The story encourages deep compassion for people of different circumstances that may not seem to need it at first.

The writing is inviting and the characters enjoyable and relatable, another reason this book is so timeless. We’re looking at 40+ years on and this book is still being read and discussed and that is because death and grief are universal. Despite this, we’re poor at dealing with death as a society and it’s novels like this one provide a useful way for youth to broach and deal with the topic. I would highly recommend this novel if you’ve not read it before or are looking for a middle-grade appropriate read that discusses, love, friendship, death, and grieving.