Monday, April 25, 2011

"Signs of Life" --A Book Review

Many things drew me to Natalie Taylor's debut novel, "Signs of Life." First of all Taylor grew up in a Detroit suburb next to where I have lived and raised my family. I know the places she talks about. But more than that, her voice is honest, spunky and heart-wrenching. Her story is real and speaks to some of our deepest human fears--losing a loved one and surviving alone. My only complaint, if you can call it that, is that her loss is so large her sadness takes up a huge portion of the story.

It is a memoir about the sixteen months after her 27 year old husband dies in a skate boarding accident. She was 8 months pregnant at the time of the tragedy and her world comes to a devastating halt. I soon learned that everything Taylor does she does with her entire being. She loves her husband, her job as a high school English teacher, her family and her baby with so much passion that of course her loss is overwhelming. She goes into wonderful detail about special times in her life with Josh, her husband. She sections each chapter with passages from books she is teaching her students. Macbeth, Metamorphosis, No Exit and Catcher in The Rye are just a few of the challenging titles that her students delight in because Taylor's sincere love for literature is so contagious. That they are very lucky children to have Taylor as their teacher is constantly evident.

It takes a very long time but Taylor does get through those sixteen months, though. Her tenacity and her passion saves her as she pours what is left of it into a triathlon...something she is not prepared to do but trains for at the urging of her sister. I got the sense that this achievement--finishing the grueling race--is a beacon that will shine on the rest of Taylor's life. That she will survive and perhaps even love again.

Signs of Life is an easy read and one that is difficult to put away. I would recommend it not just to new mothers but to anyone who has lost a loved one and is having trouble recovering. I would also recommend it to anyone who wants to know how to love with passion. Just be forewarned...this kind of love is beautifully rewarding but can also be terribly devastating.

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