The Red of my Blood: A Death and Life Story

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The Red of my Blood: A Death and Life Story

The Red of my Blood: A Death and Life Story

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While they say 'misery loves company', in this incidence it does not find much solace. In fact, the best comfort comes from the words spoken to Stroud by her sister's oncologist some weeks after her death (p.174). While the reader will doubtless find numerous 'ah ha - that's it!' moments when coming across one of Stroud's perceptive descriptions of the pain, there will also be large tracts that do not resonate and - for this reader - seem too drawn out and somewhat overly self-indulgent. While there's many things about Clover's grief that is unique to her, there's so much that hit my heart. So many experiences, feelings, thoughts, and visions I could write as my own. Having recently read Joan Didion's clinical, almost objective account of her first year of widowhood, it was interesting to read Clover's experience during the year following her sister's death. It is a raw, visceral and fearless rendering of someone whose soul is scorched by grief and loss. Clover imagines herself on a quest through a forest in the company of Gawain and Lancelot as she learns to walk through life with death beside her. Clover searches for her sister everywhere, she neglects her home and frightens her children and turns away from the platitudes of people who cannot comprehend her grief.

I have three sisters. One I grieve for, two I grieve with. We all grieve the same person, our sister, Danielle, but that grief looks very different between the three of us. Nell was the founder of the vintage-style Giffords Circus, while Stroud is a journalist and the author of the startlingly honest memoirs The Wild Other and My Wild and Sleepless Nights. The Red of My Blood, another breathtaking deep dive into her world, is her third book and, while very much about how life feels, it is also an exploration of death, a tribute to Nell and a howl of love and rage. It is an elegy of outstanding beauty to an extraordinary woman, written by her equally idiosyncratic younger sister.Clover's sister was given at least five, probably ten years to live after battling breast cancer. Ten days later, she was dead. Sibling grief doesn't get a lot of airplay, Clover sharing her experience of the loss of her sister means a great deal.

A couple of years before her sister Nell died from breast cancer at the age of 46, Clover Stroud was at a party. Another guest was asking about her family. Did she work with her sister? “No,” replied Stroud. “I am the one without the circus, the one with all the children who writes about the way life feels.” Clover Stroud's sister died suddenly at the age of forty-six, just a few weeks before Christmas. Clover, author, journalist and mother of five finds her world torn apart. It is a book about what life feels like when death interrupts it, and about bearing the unbearable and describing an experience that seems beyond words. Lyrical, hopeful, it is also about the magical way in which death and life exist so vividly beside one another, and the wonder of being human.I appreciate that we don't see her sister as a mother, or a daughter, or even as a friend. This is sibling grief. Sister to sister. A few weeks before Christmas, Clover's sister died of breast cancer, aged forty-six. Just days before, she had been given years to live. Her sudden death split Clover's life apart. The Red of My Blood charts Clover's fearless passage through the first year after her sister's death. The immediate aftermath, the 7-day milestone, the 'I can't imagine your pain, I can't imagine life without my sister' condolences. The searching, the blurred edges. The not wanting to wake up to one more day, the wanting to live as vibrant as possible. The contradictions, the hurt, the confusion, the love. This is Stroud's brutally frank account of her emotional rollercoaster year of mourning the loss of her beloved sister. If, like me, you have been through this yourself, or even if you have experienced a recent loss of any family member, reading Stroud's minute and varied descriptions of the pain will pull at your heartstrings -- and bring to the surface any parts of your own unresolved pain .... even if it will not do much to help change that.

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