four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
58-May-June-2012
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0

737416.pngA professor of English at Stony Brook University, Roger Rosenblatt is an award-winning journalist and playwright. He is the author of the best-selling books Rules for Aging (2000), Lapham Rising (2007), and Children of War (1983). Kayak Morning is a follow-up to Making Toast ( 4 of 5 Stars May/June 2010).

The Topic: Rosenblatt experienced every parent’s worst nightmare when his daughter, Amy, died of an undetected heart condition. Only 38, Amy left behind a husband, three young children, and two devastated parents. Rosenblatt’s memoir, Making Toast, recounts the terrible months following the tragedy and the family’s determined efforts to keep their household running. In Kayak Morning, two-and-a-half years have passed. Rosenblatt takes his kayak out, alone, on the southern coast of New York’s Long Island, and as he drifts along on a peaceful Sunday morning, he reflects on solitude, writing, fatherhood, and the unexpected passages of grief.
Ecco. 160 pages. $13.99. ISBN: 9780062084033

Christian Science Monitor 4 of 5 Stars
"Readers looking for updates on the lives of the charismatic Rosenblatt grandchildren or even his extended family of adult in-laws will find little information here. What they will find, however, are the thoughts and feelings of a father—who also happens to be a writer—as he struggles with a grief that seems to go on with no end in sight." Marjorie Kehe

Denver Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Kayak Morning, an extended essay that is more wide-ranging [than Making Toast], less controlled and at times barely coherent, reads like an account of grief at its worst, when the full meaning of a loss has penetrated the soul. …Part of the unique potency of Kayak Morning lies in … its uncharacteristic use of literature." John Broening

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"If Making Toast was an act of ingathering, this book is an act of de-accessioning, a send-off on a funeral boat out to sea, a valediction. It reaches out, but it resolves nothing, and that, exquisitely made, is its point." Donna Rifkind

USA Today 4 of 5 Stars
"Rosenblatt … captures his solitude on the water beautifully. His students are lucky to have such a craftsman as a teacher." Craig Wilson

Washington Post HHHH
"He is heavily burdened by the continuing pain of his daughter’s death, and the restless wandering of his thoughts as he paddles makes him seem at times distracted, at times anguished, at times enraged. The words are set down with a spare clarity that has no sentimentality to it but is nonetheless heartbreaking." Reeve Lindbergh

Critical Summary

In Making Toast, Rosenblatt’s grief is tempered by unavoidable obligations: the care of three small grandchildren who, mercifully, allow him little time to think about his loss. Kayak Morning is a very different book. Without the presence of children or other adults, Rosenblatt finds himself in the company of his thoughts, and he is angry to learn that grief, like love, is something that stays with you forever. Critics found nothing flashy about this memoir, though they lauded Rosenblatt for his thoughtful use of literature that sheds light on the nature of grief. In the end, they described Kayak Morning as quiet and sad and honest, "a slender but powerful meditation on coping with loss over the passage of time" (Christian Science Monitor).