Rare Bird—a Rare Book

My book addiction surfaced again a few weeks ago. I’d done so well for so many months on my nonfiction book moratorium. But I still have 40 nonfiction books on my “to be read” shelf (better than last October’s 60, but nowhere near the 10 or under that was my goal).

Still Jen Hatmaker‘s new-old book, Interrupted beckoned, and since I had never read 7, that soon followed. And then blogging opportunities arose, first for Robert Benson‘s Writing on the Head of a Pen. I’ve always savored Benson’s prose, so I couldn’t resist his book on writing—for free. Quotes from all three of those books have been showing up in my Facebook and Twitter feeds. And all will likely get full treatment in future blogs.

The same week I was offered a bonus read from Random House—Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love by Anna Whiston-Donaldson. The title and beautiful cover artwork drew me in and I clicked the button to receive my review copy.

Had I known the loss referenced in the subtitle was Whiston-Donaldson’s 12-year-old son swept away in a flash flood, I don’t think I would have accepted the review copy. Once it was here, I felt I just needed to read it and get it over with.

And then Whiston-Donaldson captured me with her heart-wrenching but beautiful strings of verbal pearls, talking of Jack, her love for him and what his death brings forth in her life. Her honesty at the horror and with the God who allowed/caused/pick-your-answer Jack to die brings you into her pain. Frankly admitting her own unwillingness to be kind to the children who lived while Jack didn’t tells you she is not some super-saint, as are her descriptions of the strains Jack’s death placed on her marriage and her surviving child.

By telling her story, Whiston-Donaldson also provides us some important insights in how to help a friend handle loss:

  • Show up
  • Keep showing up
  • Show up again
  • Tell stories of the deceased
  • Allow the grieving to tell their stories over and over again, including the story of the death. As Whiston-Donaldson put it:
“It is in the telling and retelling that we work our way through the painful territory and gain insight.”

Some evangelicals might be uncomfortable with the  Whiston-Donaldson’s talk of signs and visions and visitations. Don’t be. Listen. God is bigger than we imagine.

Rare Bird is a rare book that allows us into the mental, emotional and spiritual journey of a parent facing extraordinary loss. Others who are living with their own pain will likely find a welcome friend in the Rare Bird Whiston-Donaldson’s provides.



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