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An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination: A Memoir (Roughcut) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 10, 2008
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My experience is not exactly the same as the author's, but so many of the sentiments she expresses convey what I have been feeling since my daughter died, but did not have the talent to put into so many words.
I bought this book, first because it is one (of many) that addresses a subject that has been so invasive in my life since last year. I purchased it along with a few others of the same general content. This one stands out by far.
The second reason I chose this particular book among the handful is because of the title, which is obviously important or it wouldn't be the title. Not many other reviews have mentioned it. I had been feeling like I was imagining things... like my loss had been imagined, like the pregnancy had been imagined. Not really... I knew they had happened, but there are moments when I felt so out-of-place after our loss that I imagined I was about to wake up at any moment or that perhaps I had wandered mistakenly into a parallel-universe and the real me was still back in the real world, having a real, live baby. The image of Gweneth Paltrow in that movie Sliding Doors kept popping into my mind. At some point, at some singular moment, something happened, and one life kept going as expected while some other, wrong life, my life, ricocheted off in the wrong direction. This concept has had a strong pull on me and I am relieved to see someone write her story of baby loss that includes this perspective. Elizabeth's writing is descriptive in a way that gifts the bereaved reader with the words to say what she otherwise hadn't yet found the words to say. The writing is not exactly linear, which to me makes perfect sense because grief is not linear. There is each stage in it's prescribed order and then there is revisiting of each stage in a different order or in conjunction with another stage and this goes on forever as far as I can tell.
Now on my 3rd pregnancy, following the 2nd that resulted in a beautiful but stillborn daughter, I nod my head along with the author as she explains how she could not do anything the same as the last pregnancy and writes about how she felt and acted while bringing a subsequent child into the world following the "calamity" of losing her first son.
Outside of the story of pregnancy, loss and having a subsequent child, I found that reading about her life abroad with her husband was really enjoyable. I find pleasure in both Ms. McCracken's lifestyle and writing style. In the end, I don't just feel like I read a book about a woman whose baby died, I feel like I have made a friend. I may not be able to call her up and talk about the distress I'm having here during my third pregnancy, but like so many other "friends" I have made in the characters of my favorite books, I can read this one over and over again (it is a less-than-one-day read) and find comfort in the pages where she recounts the far-too- relatable thoughts and emotions I only wish all my real-life friends and family could understand about delivering a stillborn baby and about bringing a new baby into the world after that. She lost a baby years before me and wanted a book unlike the others already out there. I lost a baby years after she did and wanted a book like the one she wrote. I am so grateful to have found it.
Early on in the book McCracken states that this is the happiest story in the world with the saddest ending, but I found the opposite to be just as equally true. This book IS incredibly sad. It is also one of the happiest books I've ever read about losing a baby. I related to it on so many levels and found it so much more comforting than anything about angels or going towards the light. It embraces the here and now with all this world's grief and joy mingled together instead of trying to find easy answers or build up the unknown.
I thought it was funny that she wished for a book that shared the lighter side of losing a child because, through her honesty, optimism, and humor, she manages to produce that very book for others. This is a must-read for anybody that has lost a loved one or for anybody that wishes to better understand someone that has.