An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken

Ms. McCracken writes well. And she and her husband seem to have a wonderful, mutually supportive marriage. Those are the good parts of the book.

Exact Replica is a memoir of the author’s experience with the death of her first child and the subsequent healthy birth of her second. I wanted to read it because I once had a daughter that was stillborn. However, although I grieved then and still think of my daughter, Joanna, who is now in heaven, Ms. McCracken takes grief to another level. France (the entire country) is “ruined” for her since her baby was born and died there. (What about the rest of us who manage to cope while living in the same place after losing loved ones?) I am not invalidating or disallowing her reactions and emotions; they’re hers, and she has a right to feel whatever she feels. Nevertheless, her experience wasn’t mine, and I didn’t find much to identify with in this book.

When Joanna died (she would be 15 years old now), I was very sad. I was also very ill, having lost so much blood that I needed a transfusion. I don’t remember expecting all of my friends to send cards and emails and make phone calls and rejecting them if they did not. Of course, it was nice to hear that people cared, but Ms.McCracken is “not speaking” to a close friend because said friend was three months late in sending condolences and then said the wrong thing.

Ms. McCracken’s midwife said something very stupid and insensitive at the hospital when the author was recovering from the birth of her stillborn baby. The rage that Ms. McCracken and her husband felt for this hapless and admittedly thoughtless midwife was all out of proportion; I think, amateur psychologist that I am, that they were angry about the loss of their baby and displaced that anger onto the midwife.

Anyway, I wouldn’t recommend this book for anyone who is grieving the loss of a child; too much self indulgent wallowing in emotion, not enough help for others who are experiencing loss. It made me feel vaguely guilty for not being as devastated as the author was. Do you have a recommendation for reading for a mother (or father) who has lost a child?

3 thoughts on “An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken

  1. My sister’s first son was stillborn. He’d be 2 now. I thought of her right away when you started describing the book, but I don’t think this is the book for her.

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