by Marcie Hershman
Beacon Press, 2002
Review by Chris Staheli on Nov 11th 2003
Marcie Hershman’s writing is tempered with the wisdom that can only be gained through
suffering. Her prose at times becomes almost poetic and lyrical. There is a simplicity
to her writing which is slightly reminiscent of Herman Hesse’s work, however the
actual content of her book lacks his depth. Her narrative is non-linear, strung
loosely together by a monotonous central theme. She explores her relationship
with her beloved brother, Robert, who died of AIDS. Hershman examines the roles
his voice played, in life and death, in speaking and in silence. Its absence is
delved into in relation to grief and denial. In the muting of his voice after
death, she not only misses his voice, but hers in relation to his.
purpose of this small meditative book runs deeper than she realizes or ever
probably will. The point of the book is ostensibly to eulogize her brother and
to express her wish to hear his voice from the beyond. The force in her life
that prompted her to take pen in hand is denial. She wants to deny the finality
of death and she does so subtly. However, anyone with a close sibling can
empathize with her.
and her brother shared many traits, one of them being tenacity. Robert
possessed an indomitable will. When they were children, their father chided him
in an unduly harsh manner. He responded by standing up to his father, in manner
that showed he possessed intestinal fortitude, especially in the era he grew up
in, by talking back to his father. He then left the house without a sound. His
parents began to panic as night fell. She searched for him on her bicycle,
calling out his name louder and louder as she grew more and more concerned.
Finally he was found to the joy and relief of his family. She notes that this
stubborn streak was shared by most of her family, and it is evidenced in her
later, they both discovered that homosexuality was one more of the traits that
she and her brother shared. Ambition also bonded them closer together, as they
both strived to achieve great things. As teenagers Hershman and her brother
shared a passion for reading, though Robert tended towards European authors and
she favored American writers. He went on to become a television producer, and
she a writer.
flaw in her book is that she is using it as a vehicle for her denial. Even the
most hardened atheist can not be blamed for addressing a few words at the
gravesite of a loved one. On the other hand, the way she clings to her brother
is almost pathetic. She is too poised to be immediately recognized as being
desperate, but she embraces coincidence to bolster her belief in an afterlife.
Her denial is so great that she believes her other siblings saw an angel enter
her brother’s hospital room shortly before he died. She also treats a close
friend’s near death experience and said friend’s supposed communication with
dead relatives as fact.
conclusion, this book has dubious therapeutic value for the potential reader,
as Hershman has not yet passed the first stage of mourning. The closure she so
desires is an impossibility, for the dead can not speak.
© 2003 Chris Staheli
Chris Staheli is a student of psychology at QCC in New York. His interest in psychology was piqued by a high school
course. He also studies philosophy. In his spare time, he writes poetry, weight
lifts, and plays jazz and classical guitar.