cover image The Disappearance

The Disappearance

Genevieve Jurgensen. W. W. Norton & Company, $22 (168pp) ISBN 978-0-393-04776-9

The successful transformation of a personal tragedy into art is very rare, but Jurgensen has accomplished just that. She and her husband lost their two daughters, Mathilde and Elise, aged seven and four, when a drunk driver hit the car they were riding in, driven by a relative. The young girls were thrown from the automobile and killed. Looking back 12 years later, Jurgensen explores her struggle to understand their deaths in a series of exquisitely crafted letters to a friend. The power of the writing, expertly translated from the original French, stems from the author's ability to make every detail immediate-- from the telephone call that brought her the horrific news to her recollection of Mathilde's birth or a glimpse of Elise getting dressed. In restrained but eloquent prose, Jurgensen describes how she and her husband sustained one another through the first months of crippling grief and discusses their decision to have more children (the author subsequently gave birth to another daughter and a son). Although Jurgensen has clearly made a commitment to life, her emotional connection to Mathilde and Elise, judging by this exceptional book, is as strong as it was on the day they died. (June)