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Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love

Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love

4.8 6
by Anna Whiston-Donaldson, Glennon Melton (Foreword by)

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"I wish I had nothing to say on the matter of loss, but I do. Because one day I encouraged my two kids to go out and play in the rain, and only one came home…."
On an ordinary September day, twelve-year-old Jack is swept away in a freak neighborhood flood. His parents and



"I wish I had nothing to say on the matter of loss, but I do. Because one day I encouraged my two kids to go out and play in the rain, and only one came home…."
On an ordinary September day, twelve-year-old Jack is swept away in a freak neighborhood flood. His parents and younger sister are left to wrestle with the awful questions: How could God let this happen? And, Can we ever be happy again? They each fall into the abyss of grief in different ways. And in the days and months to come, they each find their faltering way toward peace.
In Rare Bird, Anna Whiston-Donaldson unfolds a mother’s story of loss that leads, in time, to enduring hope. “Anna’s storytelling,” says Glennon Doyle Melton, “is raw and real and intense and funny.”
With this unforgettable account of a family’s love and longing, Anna will draw you deeper into a divine goodness that keeps us—beyond all earthly circumstances—safe.

This is a book about facing impossible circumstances and wanting to turn back the clock. It is about the flicker of hope in realizing that in times of heartbreak, God is closer than your own skin. It is about discovering that you’re braver than you think.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this powerful debut memoir, blogger Whiston-Donaldson tells the tragic story—of the death of her 12-year-old son Jack. The author is an emotionally insightful guide to the territory of grief. She notes the relationship of grief and shame, the comforts and sorrows of sex, and the hideous fights between bereaved parents. From its disarming opening sentence (“I thought the first book I’d write would be about painting furniture”), the book avoids sentimentality. The book is well paced—the reader knows from the start that the author’s child is dead, but doesn’t know precisely how he dies for some chapters—and is underpinned by a steady drumbeat of faith, as Whiston-Donaldson negotiates a new relationship with God after Jack’s death. She feels deeply loved by God, “almost as if I’m wrapped in a soft, cotton batting,” but she is also “disappointed and hurt... and the only broken body I can picture right now is Jack’s.” Whiston-Donaldson’s compelling account belongs on the shelf next to Richard Lischer’s Stations of the Heart. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
"The author is an emotionally insightful guide to the territory of grief." ---Publishers Weekly

Product Details

The Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)


Meet the Author

Anna Whiston-Donaldson taught high school English before becoming an at-home mom and writer. Anna began blogging at An Inch of Grey in 2008 and has been featured twice as one of BlogHer's Voices of the Year. She lives outside of Washington, DC, with her husband, daughter, and chocolate Lab.

Hillary Huber is a multiple Audie Award finalist, an AudioFile Earphones Award winner, and an AudioFile Best Voice. She has recorded close to three hundred titles, spanning many genres.

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Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
SheilaDeeth More than 1 year ago
Does God prepare us for terrible events? If so, why doesn’t He stop them from happening? If He answers prayer, why doesn’t He answer the heartfelt prayers of church and family for the life of a child? If He loves us, why does He let us get hurt? Author Anna Whiston-Donaldson has asked all these questions while dealing with grief over the senseless loss of her son. One moment’s decision, one instant’s lack of care, and one unlikely convergence of coincidence, then a life is gone. Then grief is left behind. The author starts her memoir before the accident, introducing a fairly normal family with slightly awkward misfit son, good friends, good neighbors, good church and plenty of good will. Then the worst day ever dawns - so much worse than any childhood complaint. This is a painful book to read, as the author lays bare her inmost feelings of loss and betrayal, guilt, anger and more. “No one has ever told me that grief feels a lot like shame,” she writes, as those who have grieved will surely understand. And “it does get better. But not before it gets worse.” Is it okay to be angry with God? Is it okay not to smile? Is it okay to believe in dreams and take hope from other people’s visions? Then, in the end, is it okay when someone declares that the one they’ve lost is so very “close”? “The veil between ‘here’ and ‘there’ is very thin.” The moment between safe and lost is very small. And the journey to learning that death ends a life, not a relationship? That journey is both short and long, as this memoir reveals. It’s difficult, of course, to read this, especially for anyone with children. But it feels honest. It feels real. Having read it, I feel better prepared for whatever is yet to be, and I recommend this book to anyone facing grief, or imagining it. Disclosure: Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Carissa_B More than 1 year ago
This book was raw, captivating, and will tug on your heart strings. You will cry. There's no other way about it. It is a sad book, but it's also filled with hope and new beginnings. The way Anna writes the book is reader friendly and the chapters are never too long. Her language is simplistic, yet beautiful. She is open and honest about her experiences of losing her child. She shares some of her most precious memories of Jack and makes sure not to put him on a pedestal. She shares his triumphs, his downfalls, his quirks, and his joy for the world. Rare Bird is inspiring and a real treasure. A highly recommended read. (*Note I received an advanced readers copy from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review.)
Theophilusfamily More than 1 year ago
  "It's as if our brains are operating on two separate tracks. On is the here and now of living and loving. The second is what could or should have been, yet will not be. Most days I can keep the second track hidden. Other days I don't have a prayer." ~ Anna Donaldson, Rare Bird. This is one of those memoirs that pulls you in and holds you fast. This is a book about the death of a child. The grief of a family. And the Love that held them together. Through this memoir, Anna gives us little pieces of herself and her son. She shares her Jack with us, and lets us love him through her words. I have a 12 year old in my family, so much like Jack. He lives in a cul-de-sac neighborhood, where no deadly threats should ever lurk. His friends are two houses down, but his sister is really his best buddy. He and his sister voluntarily share a room, and apparently their nighttime hijinks can keep the whole house awake! He attends a private Catholic school, and he reads voraciously. He can carry on a conversation that is engaging, funny, and thoughtful. While I was reading, somebody noticed the beautiful book cover. It's two children, clearly vibrantly alive, flinging their arms up to embrace a pair of soaring birds. "What's that about?" they asked. "Is it good?" And I replied "Yes. It is good." And then I quickly explained what I meant. "Good" seems like the cruelest word possible to use about a book like this. Yet somehow, I think the very act of telling Jack's story is an intrinsically good thing. Rare Bird bares a mother's heart and shares a child who was gone from earth too soon. And this memoir will meet many readers in their own time of loss. Anna is clearly writing her own story, and she never tries to speak on "grief in general." That's what makes her book so powerful. She doesn't outline 12 steps of mourning, she just tells us honestly how she felt. And as she tells us, we recognize the truth. That's why I want to give this book to two family members at least. In my family, we're missing a Mom/Grandmother/Auntie. And I think we would cling to portions of Rare Bird. At one point Anna says, "But in my grief everything seems meaningless if it doesn't deal with life and death and the promise of heaven." That's a statement that we made, too. So thank you Random House for my review copy. I too suggest that almost everybody read Rare Bird.
sunshineCN More than 1 year ago
A glimpse of the pain, love and loss of a loved one and knowing God is in control. Learning to accept that everything happens for a reason and those questions of why...may not be answered for years.