Feather: A Child's Death and Life

Feather: A Child's Death and Life

by Robert Louis Peters
     
 

With great tenderness, poet and critic Robert Peters recalls the brief life and sudden death of his son Richard, a four-year-old called “Feather” by his sister Meredith and brother Rob. Feather returns home ill one day from nursery school, spends the afternoon in bed with his father and his stuffed toy seal, and dies that evening. Looking back after

See more details below

Overview

With great tenderness, poet and critic Robert Peters recalls the brief life and sudden death of his son Richard, a four-year-old called “Feather” by his sister Meredith and brother Rob. Feather returns home ill one day from nursery school, spends the afternoon in bed with his father and his stuffed toy seal, and dies that evening. Looking back after decades on that February day in 1960, when the skinned knees, colds, and fevers of childhood were obliterated by the unthinkable—fatal meningitis—Peters sees with harrowing clarity the image of that little boy in the tugboat pajamas lying still on a gurney, one bare foot visible at the edge of the sheet. He recalls his anger, his confusion: “What shall I do with my hands?”
    Feather: A Child’s Death and Life is an album of poetic and sometimes visceral snapshots: portraits of a family, a house, a strained marriage, a father reading poems to his children, a young academic struggling to establish himself, Peters catches his family in moments of almost transcendent joy and crushing grief. The children’s happiness on Christmas morning, in summer at a Canadian lake, or ice skating is shadowed by lessons in accepting death: a succession of pet turtles, mice, and goldfish succumb; Dad butchers the Thanksgiving turkey, nicknamed “Gobble,” in the snowy backyard.
    The fourth book in Robert Peters’ series of memoirs, Feather not only illuminates the lives of father and child, but also reflects a moment in the life of a writer, as Peters’ grief for his son finds expression in his first collection of poetry, Songs for a Son.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Disjointed yet strangely affecting, a lyrical collage of memories surrounding a four-year-old's brief life and sudden death.

Poet, author, and former University of California literature professor Peters (For You, Lili Marlene: A Memoir of World War II, 1995, etc.) provides impressionistic glimpses into his young son's life and death and its impact on him. When Richard (Feather was a nickname coined by his sister) was born, Peters, then a struggling academic constantly moving from one locale to another, and his wife, Jean, were already the parents of two young children. The author illuminates those times with lyrical snapshots of such things as a salamander hunt, a family-run summer school, and the hectic preparations for Thanksgiving dinner. Despite strains in the marriage—only vaguely hinted at here—the Peterses' life is enviable in its innocence. All this was shattered one day in 1960 when Feather returned home from nursery school ill, and swiftly died from a particularly vicious strain of meningitis. Numbness, shock, and horror transfixed the family. But Feather, in a sense, continues to live on for Peters. "In May, 1961," he writes, "I am in my study reading . . . I feel a tap on my shoulder, look up, gaze through a window at a lilac shrub in flamboyant bloom, and there I see Feather smiling at me! His image has ever since remained." Though Peters and his wife had another child, Jefferson, born only a year and seven months after Feather's death, their marriage dissolved, and Peters became involved in homosexual relationships. Writing elegiac poetry about Feather (included here) is one way in which he has dealt with his giref. The memoir closes with a bittersweet scene at Feather's grave, where Peters is joined by Jefferson and his wife.

More poetic than prosaic, this memoir has an uncommon, haunting beauty.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780299153601
Publisher:
University of Wisconsin Press
Publication date:
04/01/1997
Pages:
232
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.24(h) x 0.71(d)

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >