I’ve finally finished Francisco Goldman’s Say Her Name and I think I need a mental vacation. The “novel” (if you can even really call it that since it’s basically creative non-fiction) is an emotional rollercoaster, hard and slow to get through; the journey through grief and its accompanying depression and desperation is so vividly described that it would be impossible not to feel Goldman’s anxieties and guilt along with him. There is just so much sadness in this story, so much loss and loneliness and solitude, and Goldman’s honesty is something that I will always admire. He doesn’t hide any of his feelings…he doesn’t even deny his own role in the tragedy (although I do believe that he is too hard on himself and takes too much blame upon his shoulders)…he is forthcoming, in a world where people feel so inclined to bottle things up and hold them in tightly.
Perhaps I should explain a little bit about the story, although anyone can find the information on the internet. Anyway, Francisco Goldman lost his young wife, Aura Estrada, to a freak body surfing accident in Mexico when they had only been married for 2 years. That sort of information also appears on the back cover of the book itself, so there are no spoilers here – the true heart of the story lies in the way Goldman speaks of his wife, of his love for her, of their relationship, and of his attempts to deal with losing her. His voice is what brings the story to life and what makes his grief more salient and heart wrenching.
The story is, however, a love story at its very core (at least in my opinion – then again, everything is a love story in my opinion!), and Goldman makes Aura into this figure who is perfectly adorable and quirky and so very worthy of his love. Not only that, she is worthy of the reader’s admiration too. I felt the loss of her (after her traumatic death, which is only described in detail at the very end of the book) most keenly as well. Goldman constructs a tribute to his talented bride in this story, and if she could’ve been around to read it, I think she would’ve swooned and smiled at some of his beautiful descriptions of his love for her…
“My defense was that I was entranced by almost everything she did and could hardly ever take my eyes off her. Really, I was just waiting for her to put the computer away and tumble into my arms under the covers.”
“I really was the kind of person who believed that this was the way it happened: at the most unexpected moment you met somebody, there was a magical connection, an instant complicity, and your life changed. Despite the contrary evidence of so many false alarms, I’d faithfully been waiting for such a moment for years.”
“Did you see or hear or feel me loving you?”
That second quote has to be my favourite from the whole book, as it describes exactly how I feel about True Love, and how I’ve always believed True Love should be stumbled upon! (Sidenote: I’m lucky enough to have had such an experience in my own life!) Sections like that make this story so hard to pin down, so difficult to categorize; I learned so much about grief and loss, but I also felt so honoured to bear witness to such all-encompassing, never-ending, death-defying love. Goldman is a master of sentiments, a master at mastering emotions. He is an excellent storyteller and a truthful one.
I am lucky enough to be able to say that I have not yet lost a close loved one. Obviously, I’m not impervious to this and I know it will come…and I have given grief a lot of thought in my day. As an avid reader and TV/film watcher, I am often confronted with characters that die or go away, never to be seen again. As someone who is naturally over-worried and imaginative, I’ve tried to decide how I would react to these sorts of circumstances – how I would survive knowing that I will never see that person who I love so much ever again. I still have absolutely no idea what I would do, how I would cope, how I would feel, and what I would and would not allow myself to reveal to others. Goldman’s book has presented me with another way of handling grief…by facing it, writing about it, expressing and sharing it. I don’t know that I would be brave enough to do what Goldman did, however. I do know, though, that I will do what I always do when faced with difficult and painful circumstances…I will do what Goldman also did after losing Aura, I will “look for answers where I usually do, in books.”
PS – Thank you to my friend Rachelle for purchasing this book for me for my birthday. You know my tastes so well!
Girl with a Green Heart