cover image Scenes with My Son: Love and Grief in the Wake of Suicide

Scenes with My Son: Love and Grief in the Wake of Suicide

Robert Hubbard. Eerdmans, $21.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-802-88344-5

Northwestern College theater professor Hubbard debuts with a haunting elegy to his late son, who died by suicide in 2020 at age 19 after enduring a tortuous five-year battle with depression. Initially unable to write about Auggie (even the social media updates Hubbard posted in the days immediately afterward were “a steaming hell”), the author eventually decided he needed “to let the world know about Auggie’s great soul.” He divides the book’s vivid collage of vignettes into three acts: “Beautiful Boy” chronicles Auggie’s childhood, which was “lived mostly in a state of joy,” though occasional out-of-the-blue fits of rage “hinted at dangerous imbalances to come”; “The Family Monster” probes the depression that’s afflicted the author’s other son, George, and wife April; and “The Life After” captures the bewildering weeks and months that followed the tragedy, as the devoutly Christian author wrestled with his faith (“Adoring the God who allowed my son to die seems false or disingenuous at times,” he muses at one point, and elsewhere wonders, “Will I really see my boy again? Or is my belief just a fairy tale?”). Hubbard holds nothing back in sketches that vacillate between gut-punching grief and passionate celebration of life—often in the same sentence, as when he relives “the sensation of how the house literally vibrated from the soulful, mournful, masterful bellows of Auggie playing his tuba.” It’s a heartbreaker. (Nov.)