by Ann Hood
W. W. Norton, 2008
Review by Leo Uzych, J.D., M.P.H. on Mar 16th 2010
Comfort is the personal memoir of a mother, Ann Hood, grieving the death of her five year old daughter Grace. Hood is an inveterate writer of books. The enormity of the emotional tragedy of the death of her daughter is recollected, by Hood, in a palpably painful manner. In the prologue and epilogue, and in the ten chapters nestled in between, Hood, using the instrument of a viscerally cutting pen, exposes layer after emotional layer of her grieving for her dearly beloved Grace. Hood's plaintively traversed journey through grief is an emotional magnet penned with artistic beauty.
The body of the book is enlivened with an abundance of animating biographic details. Exhibiting very finely honed writing skills, Hood recollects these details with riveting adeptness. Some snippets of real life comments, interspersed here and there in the book's corpus, further animate its substance. The writing is styled in a plain English manner.
Hood's emotionally painful journey through grief commences with a sobering recounting of Grace's rapid demise, resulting from a virulent form of strep infection. Over the course of her pained journey, Hood writes very candid descriptions of her emotions and feelings; the grief suffered by other family members (her husband, Lorne; and son, Sam) is described candidly, as well.
Following the death of Grace, knitting proved to be an antidote for some of the emotional pain afflicting Hood.
Food also provided a measure of palliative relief. Hood reminisces about foods that Grace relished; and the reader learns that eating foods that Grace had liked was comforting for Hood.
But what Hood did mostly was hide, notably including hiding from the music of the Beatles. As Hood explains, her erstwhile passion for the Beatles (which had also become a passion for Grace) turned upside down and haunted her following Grace's death.
Attending the wedding of Grace's first nanny Hillary was bittersweet for Hood: the sweetness of the wedding was embittered by Hood's heartfelt feeling that Grace should have been there.
The arms of Hood, which had held Grace lovingly in life, now ached emptily for her in death.
Hood's personal tug of war in life, between leaving (things, places, and people) versus staying, and the impact of Grace's death on this struggle, are written about with her customary candor.
The conflicted feelings of Hood about spirituality, and the effects of Grace's death on Hood's spirituality, likewise draw her forthright writing attention.
In the book's last chapter, the adopting (by Hood and her family) of a baby girl, from China, is described. As Hood explains, it is great to have her adopted daughter Annabelle, but the grieving for Grace continues; in Hood's heart, joy and grief coexist.
The powerful currents of feelings and emotions gushing through this personal story of grief should greatly arouse the interest of lay readers. Hood's detail laden account of intense grief should further kindle flames of professional interest engulfing: bereavement counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, emergency room doctors, pediatricians, and clergy members.
© 2010 Leo Uzych
Leo Uzych (based in Wallingford, PA) earned a law degree, from Temple University; and a master of public health degree, from Columbia University. His area of special professional interest is healthcare.