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Bookmarks Issue: 
37-Nov-Dec-2008
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A-An Exact ReplicaIn this heartbreaking memoir, novelist Elizabeth McCracken (Here’s Your Hat What’s Your Hurry: Stories, 1993, and The Giant’s House, 1996) tells the story of her 2006 pregnancy and miscarriage.

The Topic: In 2002, Elizabeth McCracken, a librarian and self-professed spinster, met English writer Edward Carey at a Barnes & Noble book party. Four years later, the happily married couple, living in France, discovers that McCracken is pregnant. Nine months of preparations, excitement, and joyous milestones end abruptly when, just days before McCracken’s due date, the near-full-term boy, affectionately nicknamed Pudding, dies inside of her and she carries him for two more days until he is stillborn. "He was a person," McCracken explains simply. "I missed him like a person." Though she and Edward are now the proud parents of baby Gus, McCracken celebrates Pudding’s short life and recounts the heartache, confusion, and self-recrimination that followed the death of her "first child."
Little, Brown. 192 pages. $19.99. ISBN: 0316027677

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"Novelist Elizabeth McCracken provides a gorgeously loving and frank account of her first pregnancy, which ended miserably in a stillbirth. … Impossibly, her story of loss reads like a celebration of life." Karen Valby

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"This is an intimate book—McCracken does not spare us her anger, fear, frustration or despondency. It is also a wildly important book—we do not live alongside the dead the way we ought to: We sweep them off to the margins as quickly as possible." Susan Salter Reynolds

Minneapolis Star Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"Her memoir of that year is searing, excruciatingly sad and occasionally howlingly funny. … Her devastating black humor punctuates the narrative, and when you laugh it’s OK, because you understand her desire that Pudding be remembered with pleasure, not pain." Laurie Hertzel

Newsday 4 of 5 Stars
"The [book is] beautifully, searchingly written, though [it is] likely to resonate most strongly with readers who have suffered similar losses, people who also perch on a branch of what McCracken calls ‘a family tree of grief.’ … A self-proclaimed cynic, McCracken can be darkly funny." Heller McAlpin

San Diego Union-Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"McCracken narrates the stillbirth with remarkable restraint, even though sorrow vibrates constantly just below the surface of her words. But it is her self-analysis that cuts to the quick. … In a decade glutted with memoirs, McCracken’s makes you realize how just good a genre this can be." Robert L. Pincus

USA Today 4 of 5 Stars
"Elizabeth McCracken, a novelist (The Giant’s House) and former librarian, has written a remarkably touching account of the best of all possible news and the worst. … It’s sad but never maudlin." Bob Minzesheimer

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"The best memoirs transcend their particulars, offer a fresh look at the bumpy terrain of sorrow, love, youthful folly, aged folly, resilience and selfhood. McCracken’s is one of those, and it would be a shame to pass it by because it strikes at one’s deepest fears." Peggy Orenstein

Critical Summary

In Elizabeth McCracken’s heartrending memoir—a love letter to the child she lost and the devoted husband who suffered alongside her—McCracken displays her many talents. Her warmth, candor, crystalline prose, lovely imagery, and attention to detail bring her painful story to life. McCracken’s dark sense of humor ensnares unwitting readers, belying the sadness with which she writes, and she shows very little patience for self-pity and sentimentality. Critics praised her clear-eyed account in a genre replete with syrupy, self-aggrandizing books, though some expressed doubts that its subject matter would have wide appeal. "I’m not ready for my first child to fade into history," explains McCracken. With this heartbreaking account of his life, there’s little chance of that.