cover image If This Were Fiction: A Love Story in Essays

If This Were Fiction: A Love Story in Essays

Jill Christman. Univ. of Nebraska, $21.95 trade paper (226p) ISBN 978-1-49623-235-9

Christman (Borrowed Babies) considers love, loss, and the art of writing in these luminous essays. The narrative is broken into three parts, each of which is named after a poem by E.E. Cummings, and a main thread pertains to the death of Christman’s fiancé in a car accident at the age of 22 and her life after it. In “Going Back to Plum Island,” Christman grapples with the idea that art can be a form of therapy, initially resisting the notion, but eventually accepting it: “in both (good) therapy and writing, we work our way to a kind of cohesion, an order in the senselessness we can live with.” “The Avocado,” meanwhile, is a moving account of the author reckoning with “how much work I had to do before my body was mine” in the wake of her fiancé’s death, and in “The Sloth,” she memorably compares grief to the mammal’s slow crawl: “This slow seemed impossible, not real.” Christman’s writing is moving and poetic, and she has a knack for imbuing profundity into everyday activities, whether slicing an avocado or climbing a hill. Fans of the personal essay shouldn’t miss these intimate encounters. (Sept.)