What happens at the end of words? When you can find no other way to say “good-bye” or “I love you” to a parent? Stone faced those difficult questions as a teenager, and through alternating narration and poetry, she shares her anger, sorrow, confusion, and healing after her mother’s death from breast cancer. The emotions in the prose passages express what one would expect a teen to feel upon the impending loss of a parent, while the poems provide a thoughtful counterpoint and add to the pacing of the book. The theme is not new, but the topic will likely speak to readers experiencing this devastating experience or who have a friend going through it. The book comes full circle, with time passing and healing beginning. While these may not be the freshest or most creatively written insights, they are very real.
- Age Range: 12 and up
- Grade Level: 7 and up
- Hardcover: 64 pages
- Publisher: Candlewick; 1st edition (March 1, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0763618543
- ASIN: B003O86IVA
- Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.3 x 0.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
From School Library Journal
Grade 6 Up-What happens at the end of words? When you can find no other way to say “good-bye” or “I love you” to a parent? Stone faced those difficult questions as a teenager, and through alternating narration and poetry, she shares her anger, sorrow, confusion, and healing after her mother’s death from breast cancer. The emotions in the prose passages express what one would expect a teen to feel upon the impending loss of a parent, while the poems provide a thoughtful counterpoint and add to the pacing of the book. The theme is not new, but the topic will likely speak to readers experiencing this devastating experience or who have a friend going through it. The book comes full circle, with time passing and healing beginning. While these may not be the freshest or most creatively written insights, they are very real.
Sharon Korbeck, Waupaca Area Public Library, WI
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 6-12. In spare poems and journal entries, a college student writes of the year when her mother died of cancer: the facts of the illness and the pain, the family’s grief, and, especially, the student’s sorrow, anger, guilt, and healing. Yes, it’s therapeutic, and teen bereavement support groups will want this. But what moves the book beyond message is the raw, simple, personal imagery that reveals the young woman’s distant relationship with her brother; her fear that she’s using her mother’s suffering as an excuse for slacking off; the details of her lurching to school unwashed in the clothes she slept in; and her ripping, tearing grief. The prose is as rhythmic and poetic as the verse. Particularly beautiful is the girl’s long, rushing farewell monologue to her mother in the hospice, “I will follow what I love to be and do and see . . and I will go out and do great things because of you and for you and I know you’ll be with me.” Anyone who mourns a loved one will relate to this. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
About the Author
Miriam Stone is one of the young adult authors included in Betsy Franco’s anthology THINGS I HAVE TO TELL YOU: POEMS AND WRITING BY TEENAGE GIRLS. She contributed the poems “Damn, I Look Good,” “A Bad Hair Day,” and “To Live.” Miriam Stone grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and is currently an undergraduate student at Columbia University, where she is studying anthropology and creative writing. Of her memoir, she says, “Writing AT THE END OF WORDS was never a choice for me but a necessity. To surrender to words and the power of creativity was to allow myself to heal.” She has traveled and studied in Europe
and the Americas and works as a human rights activist in New York City.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
This weekend we take a campus tour. Just Mom, Dad, a tour guide, a wheelchair, and me. I clumsily push her along brick walkways and uneven sidewalks in the freezing gray air. She is wearing her huge fur coat, her tiny head protruding like a turtle’s, her hands placed pleasantly on her lap as she nods approvingly at the size of the dorm rooms, the dark wood dining hall, the cavernous library.”And the flight home is so short.” She smiles. “You’ll be able to come back for weekends, if you want.”As Dad struggles to put the wheelchair in the trunk of a cab, I stand on the sidewalk to take one last look. I feel her gaze on me through the window. She never should have traveled with us. She is way too weak. But she had insisted on coming in her quiet, unquestionable way. I turn back toward the street and catch her eye. I haven’t been accepted to school yet. She hasn’t announced her death yet. But in that glance is our first goodbye.Back at the high school the tightness in my chest is suffocating. I slip into my guidance counselor’s office. Before I know it, I’m crying and shaking and saying things I didn’t even know I felt. “Everything is catching up with me,” I say. “Everyone has the same stuff to deal with, SATs and applications and everything. But I just feel like I can’t handle it anymore. I can’t do my work. I’m so tired all the time. I’m not sure what else to do.” I’ve already quit volleyball. It was such a relief, that letter to the coaches, that quick flick of the pen. “My mother is very sick and I need to spend more time at home. I will not be completing the rest of the season with the team.” Why did I even tell them my mother was sick? I’ve hardly even been spending more time at home. Am I using her sickness as an excuse?
My counselor asks if I want him to tell my teachers about my mother. Maybe they’d give me some breaks—they’d be more understanding. No, I shake my head. That’s okay. I just need to step up to things. It’s my own fault for slacking off. My mom has been sick since I was in eighth grade. I have always managed to stay in control. But he remains unconvinced. He’s going to talk to my teachers, and my brother David’s too. At least I won’t have to say it to anyone’s face.
I leave his office ashamed, angry, stifled with guilt.
How did this all happen, the crying, the pity? Maybe I like people feeling sorry for me. Maybe I’m the kind of person who takes the easy way out. While my mother is sick at home, I’m here sliding by on her pain, using her.
I want to go home, fess up and tell her everything. Instead I cut class and stand with friends, stamping feet near the tennis courts, hands stuffed in our coat pockets. Cigarette smoke melds with our freezing breath into tiny white clouds above our heads.
Stories like loose nails jut out
from your structure—
French rock stars, hippie boyfriends, the Beatles in Paris.
St. John’s in the ’60s: Homer and Aristotle,
an anorexic roommate, the Maryland air.
The day you told me about the first time you had sex
we were driving to your mother’s in the blue van.
Parked outside, keys stripped
from the ignition, casually, in conversation,
like it was something we discussed every day.
I wondered if your mother told you
the things you tell me.
Now I hoard your stories, scavenge
for your words like water. I want the glue that holds you
together. I need the architecture, the angles
of your inside.
I want to ask: what does love smell like,
what color sky makes your skin melt,
what does death taste like,
and are you afraid?