cover image Sanctuary: A Memoir

Sanctuary: A Memoir

Emily Rapp Black. Random House, $27 (240p) ISBN 978-0-52551-094-9

Rapp Black (The Still Point of the Turning World) shines in this stirring account of life after the death of her son Ronan from Tay-Sachs, a rare and always fatal inherited disorder. In July 2012, with two-year-old Ronan’s health in decline, Rapp Black considered suicide, but decided not to go through with her plan upon realizing, “I want to love again, to know hope and happiness.” Instead, she carried on and fell in love, remarrying after Ronan’s 2013 death and later having a daughter. This experience—being both a new mother and a grieving mother—serves as a springboard for an exploration of the concept of resilience. In one passage, she delves into the meaning of the word (the term made its written debut in 1818, discussing effective methods of shipbuilding), then segues into the meaning in more contemporary use related to courage and personal strength. Rapp Black asserts that, in life, resilience requires no extraordinary measures because life itself—with its inevitable losses—demands resilience for survival. The prose is lyrical and hypnotic but never overwrought or contrived. This is a mesmerizing and unforgettable tale. (Jan.)