A Review of
Into a Reluctant Sunrise: A Memoir
Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith
In April 2008, my wife Jeni and I lost a daughter, Hazel Irene, who was born still. The grief that followed Hazel’s death has lingered over the intervening years, especially for Jeni who knew her more intimately, having carried Hazel in her womb for almost nine months. The nature of grief, we’ve found, is that it manifests itself differently in different people; everyone has a different story.
Andrea Lingle, also had a daughter who was born still, and in her new memoir, Into a Reluctant Sunrise, she tells her own story of the journey of grieving her daughter’s death. She writes: “When you have a shared traumatic (experience), people are often driven to tell you their stories. It is mutually necessary. There is some mystical power in the ‘Me too’ stories. It can be painful to hear his pediatric cancer story or her SIDS story, but isolation is worse. Knowing there are others out there who have found a way to keep breathing means I can do it too” (125). Indeed, telling our stories, and listening to others tell their stories of grief, is part of God’s provision for our healing. One of the great comforts of this memoir was simply Lingle telling her own story of grief in her own honest and contemplative manner. I found comfort in being reminded that I was not alone in my experience of grief.
In the weeks after Hazel’s death, a few well-intentioned friends gave us books about stillbirth. Neither Jeni nor myself could bring ourselves to read much from these books, as they (and especially the Christian ones) tended to be overly sentimental. I wish that Into a Reluctant Sunrise would have been available in those early years of our grief. I would be likely to give a copy of this memoir to friends who are grieving a stillbirth, and probably other friends who find themselves drowning in other sorts of grief. Lingle offers a rich well of wisdom for the grief journey, and is earnest in telling her story, but does so without even a drop of sentimentality. I would also encourage those who are walking alongside grieving friends or family to read this book, for some insight into the geography of grief through which their loved ones will eventually wonder.
I would add to my hearty recommendation, a tiny warning. The text of the book is laid out in some peculiar ways: some pages contain merely a few words, phrases, or lines, in a manner reminiscent of poetry, although the bulk of the text is prose. The book also contains some lovely pen-and-ink drawings, and I think the unique layouts are supposed to work with the drawings as part of the aesthetics of the book, but this reader found the text layouts distracting. I hope this won’t discourage you from reading the book, but I thought you deserved a warning about this, as it is a significant part of the book.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com