Gisleson’s memoir is a compassionate journey through personal grief, as well as a smart compendium of literature. After the suicides of her twin sisters (Rachel and Rebecca) and the destruction Hurricane Katrina wreaks in her hometown of New Orleans, Gisleson and her husband Brad bring friends together in what they called the Existential Crisis Reading Group, or ECRG. Gisleson, who’s written for the Atlantic
and the Oxford American
, documents a year in which she and the ECRG explore the meaning of life as they read, drink, and share ideas. What ensues is a dynamic examination of human suffering and human joy. They discuss an all-star lineup of literature—including the works of Kingsley Amis, Epicurus, Clarice Lispector, Shel Silverstein, and Leo Tolstoy, to name a few. Gisleson nicely evokes the Catholic teachings she learned from her parents; most moving, though, is her hard look at her twin sisters’ lives: both were fraught with mental illness and addiction, traits shared by their father, who was a death-row lawyer in Louisiana. Her narrative is a wonderful look at friendship and grief, as well as an enlightening personal literary journey. Agent: Emma Parry, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Aug.)
Correction: This review originally incorrectly listed the book's title and author's name. Both have been corrected.