The Plain Language of Love and Loss: A Quaker Memoir

By BETH TAYLOR

Taylor, a college professor, builds up to the story of her teenage brother’s suicide, and from there unfolds language so subtle and precise as to create a heart-wrenching, incisive story. Probing family dynamics and the burden of Quaker expectations alongside a generational hatred of conformity and unnecessary deaths, Taylor applies an academic’s rigor to her quest for clarity. She’s interviewed friends and family and explored psychological texts to help elucidate her family’s central tragedy and its spinoff sorrows. Impressively, the commentary on Taylor’s 12-year-old self seems just as believable as the analysis she offers from her present perspective as mother, wife, teacher and writer. Though unafraid to investigate depression, breakups and alcoholism, none of Taylor’s writing whiffs of a tell-all for the sake of it. On the contrary, the author is humble and analytical in her reflections on what has been endured. Most striking of all is the way acceptance is treated in Taylor’s memoir. Far from a trite “this is how things are” approach to acceptance, the author investigates the way in which her brother’s death has permeated her life with a very beautiful mixture of anger, confusion and understanding. And from there, she accepts enough to be able to produce a poignant story out of what has been lived during a turbulent time in American history.

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