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Without Jenny Paperback – April 20, 2018
"A moving account of love and mourning." --Kirkus Reviews
Joy Rosenberg thinks she's the luckiest person in the world, with satisfying work, a passionate marriage, an excellent bicycle and two great kids. But when ten-year-old Jenny is killed, Joy's life is destroyed. Tortured by visions of the accident and twisted by guilt, she feels doomed to a life of unremitting darkness. Family, Judaism, work, athletics--nothing will deliver what she wants the most: Jenny. Joy struggles to live a life of purpose and compassion while grief is tearing it apart. Can she forgive herself and learn to love again, or will she lose her husband and son forever? An emotional story told in honest and haunting detail, Without Jenny is an intimate portrait of a loving marriage stretched to the breaking point by the unspeakable.
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"A moving account of love and mourning." --Kirkus Reviews
"With a writing style that is as clear-minded and straightforward as it is absorbing, Without Jenny pulls the reader in to family's great depths of emotion . . . . a heart-wrenching depiction of a parent persisting after the loss of her child. --Foreword Reviews
"Mark Gunther offers his readers a meditation on strength, courage, and the healing power of family." --Rabbi Naomi Levy, author of Einstein and the Rabbi
"This novel draws us intimately close to the mysteries of imperfect love and of human resilience." --Catherine Brady, winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction
"Without Jenny shares the experience of all bereaved parents and can help inform the people who support them." --Janet Roberts, editor, Grief Digest magazine
"So the dead may live on in those who have loved them, and yet, can love ever really be stronger than death? Most marriages fail with the death of a child, each spouse endlessly reflecting the loss back at the other. What is the calculus, the magic formula that can make everything add up once again? The answer this breathtaking novel offers is going to surprise you." --Sherril Jaffe, author of You Are Not alone and Other Stories.
"Without Jenny by Mark Gunther is a powerful story about love and loss, and one family's journey through grief. This is a must-read story that will leave an imprint on your heart forever." --Reader Views
"Gunther's debut novel is part Kaddish, part Cuckoo's Nest--something every seeker yearning for the presence of the empty fullness of reality must read and reflect upon. Joy is the key to the wholeness that might emerge for every one of us broken human beings." --Rabbi Aubrey L. Glazer, Ph.D., Director of Panui; Research Fellow at Katz Center for Advanced Jewish Studies
About the Author
- Publisher : Koehler Books (April 20, 2018)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 232 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1633935442
- ISBN-13 : 978-1633935440
- Item Weight : 11.3 ounces
- Dimensions : 6 x 0.53 x 9 inches
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
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Then, as a parent, we lost our middle son to an accidental overdose almost six years ago. While I had lost other loved ones before his death and thought I knew how to handle my own grief, I was not prepared to grieve for my beloved son. So I read books about parental grief, trying to find help to survive our reality. There were many books that talked about nutrition, religion, therapy, and other ways to handle grief, but none of them resonated with me. While we read those books, we also listened to the well-meaning comments on how his death would destroy our marriage and our family, and had to figure out how to make our own new reality with our family intact.
This past month, I picked up the novel Without Jenny by Mark Gunther. The book was suggested by a writer who knows my work as well as Gunther's work. A novel about grief? I was intrigued. When it arrived, the gorgeous cover pulled me right in, and I didn't even bother to read the "about the author," which I usually do before starting a book.
Within pages, I was holding back sobs as I read about the main character's pain and anguish as her beloved daughter was killed in a freak accident. I could feel her loneliness, the guilt, the uncertainty, the not wanting to eat, wanting to or not being able to sleep, the feeling that life would never be the same again. I read each page of the struggles Joy's family endured trying to figure out their new lives, and how to keep their family together, rooting for them, but also knowing how hard just surviving on a daily basis can be. I relished the depiction of grief within the Jewish community of faith and wished for a moment that my religious community had such simple but beautiful rituals for grief. I felt her absolute devotion to her living son, and her desire to figure out how to keep their family together, even as their lives were so completely changed with Jenny's death.
Beyond it being a truly beautiful story of love, healing, and hope, Without Jenny is exquisitely written. Gunther's use of descriptive language is tight and lyrical, clear but not overwhelming. I am amazed at his ability to write from a woman's point of view. I marveled at his ability to depict a parent's grief, and his ability to explain the complexities of family life after the death of a child, and to do so in a work of fiction.
Later, as I finished the book, I read the acknowledgments and Gunther’s biography. Reading that he too is a grieving parent (something I hadn't known until then) made me reflect on how writers often wrestle with their own demons as they write fiction. Without Jenny is a beautiful book that is uplifting even if you aren't grieving yourself.
I love and I yearn – while I have thus far been blessed to not know the intense yearning that comes with losing a child, I do know the yearning that comes with mothering – yearning to make everything right for our kids, yearning to guide their lives as children when they need us, and as adults, when we are better off as onlookers. Joy carried the whole world on her shoulders: in her mind, it was her failure that produced her daughter’s death. How often do I blame myself when my kids stumble, let others down, or behave in a way I’m not proud of.
Gunther provides exquisite attention to detail. I am there when the scaffolding collapses on Joy’s daughter. I am there when her son Jake swirls his french fries in ketchup. I can feel and see the lives of his characters in their every move.
While Gunther writes about an experience I hope to never share, he weaves you in and helps you to better understand yourself and the way our world of joy and tragedy are so inexplicably connected. I recommend Without Jenny to anyone who sees themselves fitting into the category of “human.”