An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination: A Memoir

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination: A Memoir

by Elizabeth McCracken


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"This is the happiest story in the world with the saddest ending," writes Elizabeth McCracken in her powerful, inspiring memoir. A prize-winning, successful novelist in her 30s, McCracken was happy to be an itinerant writer and self-proclaimed spinster. But suddenly she fell in love, got married, and two years ago was living in a remote part of France, working on her novel, and waiting for the birth of her first child.
This book is about what happened next. In her ninth month of pregnancy, she learned that her baby boy had died. How do you deal with and recover from this kind of loss? Of course you don't—but you go on. And if you have ever experienced loss or love someone who has, the company of this remarkable book will help you go on.
With humor and warmth and unfailing generosity, McCracken considers the nature of love and grief. She opens her heart and leaves all of ours the richer for it.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316027663
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 02/22/2010
Pages: 184
Sales rank: 426,389
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Elizabeth McCracken is the author of The Giant's House, which was nominated for the National Book Award; Niagara Falls All Over Again, winner of the PEN/Winship Award; and Here's Your Hat What's Your Hurry. She has received grants and awards from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the American Academy in Berlin.

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Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 51 reviews.
CFay More than 1 year ago
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination is the truest representation of living through the loss of a child I have ever read. Since I lost my newborn son 18 months ago, I have read MANY books designed to "help" with the grief following a loss as devastating as losing a baby. None of them touched me or seemed to truly understand the total devastation of losing your infant like this book did. The author does a perfectly eloquent job of addressing all the seemingly innocent things people do or say in their best efforts to be comforting that can send a grieving parent into a spiral of grief. I also appreciated the light at the end of tunnel she provides in the hope of the love of a subsequent child. Even though the hole torn in your heart by the loss of your child always remainsand you will never again look at life as you did before your loss, the author provides the hope that finding a new normal is possible. After the death of my son, many people in my life told me that they "could never understand" what we had been through. And, it's true that unless you have lost a child, you can never really understand(and I hope you never do), but this book does such a perfect job of shedding light on the experience that I would hand it to anyone who wants to try to understand the loss. I recommend this the book to anyone who has ever suffered the loss of a child. I also recommend this book to anyone who loves someone who has lost a child.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have been reading Elizabeth McCracken since her first novel, "The Giant's House" came out. That one was great! She had me hooked. I've read "Niagara Falls All Over Again" and while I didn't love it as much it is darn good. Then her collection of short stories "Here's Your Hat, What's Your Hurry?" - which I plan to reread again. So, I was so pleased to find her newest book "An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination." This book is like nothing else I've ever read. A wonderfully touching and insightful personal story of her loss and her hope that made me smile and also cry. I highly recommend this and any other of her books. You won't regret it!
L.A.Carlson-writer More than 1 year ago
This engaging and witty memoir is about loosing a child but it is also about how others react in times of loss. I found it to be exactly right on and while I have lost several family members none of those was a child.
We really find out how emphathic people are when someone dies. It seems to me there are two kinds of emphathy, the one that suggests people can only relate when they have indeed lost and then, there's the other one.
The truest type of emphathy which involves feeling compassion for a situation regardless if you have experienced it or not. It also seems obvious if ever there was a person who deserves happiness with her child it would be Elizabeth McCracken.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Elizabeth McCracken is an award winning, happily single author in her late thirties. But when she meets Edward Carey, they fall in love and get married. Both have wanderlust and it is in France where she disover she is expecting their first child. They spend an idyllic nine months waiting for the birth of 'Pudding', the pet name given to the unborn baby boy. However, tragedy strikes at the eleventh hour. McCracken's son is stillborn. How does one deal with such sorrow? How do you go forward? An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination is the story of that pregnancy and loss, written after birth of her second child, a little more than a year later. 'This is the happiest story in the world with the saddest ending.' I felt like I was privy to McCracken's journal, reading of the joy, anticipation, hurt, anger and grief that she and her husband went through. She is unwavering in her honesty, sharing her most intimate thoughts and emotions. I haven't (yet) read any of her novels, but was captured by the way she uses words to paint vivid descriptions. ' Just then another would-be renter showed up, a yellow-clad lawyer from Boston, with wooden skin and leaden hair and the official dreary insinuating underfed brittle aura of a number 2 pencil'. Whether you are a parent or not, this is a personal and moving memoir that will touch you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
¿This is the happiest story in the world with the saddest ending.¿ Elizabeth McCracken courageously shares her pain at giving birth to a stillborn child and the joy at the birth of a healthy child. Pregnancy was a happy time for the couple. When Pudding was still born, they never expected the sun to shine again. McCracken shares the deep pain. Her words paint a picture of her great grief. She shares the self-doubt and the self-incrimination. With the second pregnancy came anxiety and joy. McCracken¿s story is one many women can relate to. She clearly displays the emotions she faced. Her style is conversational. This is not an easy book to read. McCracken made me feel her pain. The birth of Pudding will leave you sad. However, hope and joy triumph in the end with the birth of Gus. Gus could never replace Pudding, but he has his own place in life.
jordgubben on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found this book extraordinarily helpful as I navigated the grief associated with a pregnancy loss. While the physical aspects of our losses were different, many of the emotional aspects she described were the same. In fact, I read the book with a highlighter in hand marking the passages that expressed the way I was feeling better than I was able to express myself. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has experienced a pregnancy loss. I am very thankful to the author for sharing her story in such a wonderful, readable way.
markfinl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a well-written book about a very sad subject, giving birth to a stillborn baby, but strangely the book failed to move me.
bobbieharv on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A beautifully written book that, for the first time, made me realize what my mother must have gone through when her middle child was stillborn.
brsquilt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Listened to audio version. Very good. Never realized the impact on a woman who has a still-born child. Although the book at times was very sad, she also added some appropriate and very funny humor. Good memoir.
schmadeke on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of the most powerful books I've read in quite some time. It is easily read in a day. Once you start, you won't want to put it down. There is a huge amount of emotional vulnerability and honesty in this short memoir, which makes for an extraordinarily engaging read. From the beginning, the reader knows about the tragic and heartbreaking ending of McCracken's first pregnancy. We know what happened, but we're not quite sure about the details leading up to the point where she received the news that her unborn baby had died. McCracken makes you feel that you need to know. You need to understand exactly what happened. But she takes her time, giving you the background first.McCracken goes back and forth between past and present. How she met her husband (who is surely an angel, by the way), how they lived in various countries on various continents, how they ended up living in France at the time of her pregnancy. She is all over the place in terms of the timeline of events, which might be distracting, EXCEPT for the fact that all the jumping around somehow seemed appropriate given the subject matter of this book. Because this book is about grief, and let's face it: grief is messy.One of the aspects of this book that stands out the most in my mind is the author's feelings about the reactions of her friends and family. What expressions of sympathy gave her strength and courage, and what left her cold? This memoir was written a little over a year after her first baby died in utero, and shortly after the birth of her second child. McCracken is painfully honest about who responded how. She addresses the few people who reacted in an unforgivable way, but more importantly, she recounts the loving expressions of sympathy from friend after friend that sustained her. I think there is something to learn here, about what we need most from our friends and relatives when we are grieving. It might seem like this is a depressing book, but it's not. I think McCracken wrote this memoir to memorialize both her first child and her own experience. I don't think she wants closure. She makes it very clear in the book that she wants to remember her first child always and every day. The book is a tribute, and a beautiful one at that.
catarina1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sad story about the death of a baby, a stillbirth. Took place in 2006 and 2007, ending with the birth of her second child who lives. It would be interesting to read how she feels now - sometime later. It is a sad story, full of her grief. But still she seemed to whine a lot, to be quite unforgiving of "friends" who just didn't say the right thing.
writestuff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Author Elizabeth McCracken lived briefly in France, with her husband, in her early thirties. It is there she conceives her first child - a son named Pudding - and begins to dream of his life and how it will enrich her life. And then the unthinkable happens. In her ninth month of pregnancy, the child she and her husband have been anticipating dies. An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination is the story of loss and how one woman moved through it.Elizabeth McCracken has written a stunning memoir from the heart - a love letter of sorts to her first son and her husband. Her writing is never maudlin, yet is profoundly moving - and despite the bleak subject matter, it even manages to be funny at times. But it is McCracken¿s honesty which makes the memoir powerful. She never pads the emotions or avoids the uncomfortable - instead she takes the reader through one of the most devastating years of her life with candor and grace. Lest the reader shy away from the book because a baby dies, it would be remiss of me not to mention that a child is also born and lives in this book¿an event that is at the same time joyous, healing and bittersweet.I will admit that this book hit me like a sledgehammer. It sent me reeling. I felt blindsided by the intense emotions it stirred up for me¿because I lost a child too. No, I have never been pregnant. My loss arrived through infertility. And McCracken¿s prose resonated with me. She writes about other women¿s pregnancies after her unbearable loss: 'Still, I wouldn¿t have minded a pause in the whole business. A sudden harmless moratorium on babies being born. Doctors would have to tell the unfortunate pregnant, ¿I¿m sorry. It happens sometimes. Tidal, we think. For everyone else, nine months, but for you, eleven months, maybe a year, maybe more. Don¿t go outside. Don¿t leave your house. Stroke your stomach, fine, but only in your own living room. Keep your lullabies to yourself. We¿ll let you know when it¿s time.¿ -From An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, page 43-'AND ' No, I insist: other people¿s children did not make me sad. But pregnant women did. -From An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, page 111-'She writes of that horribly destructive behavior called Blame which threatens to stand in the way of moving forward through grief: 'Blame is a compulsive behavior, the emotional version of obsessive hand washing, until all you can do is hold your palms out till your hands are full of it, and rub, and rub, and accomplish nothing at all. And so we grieved but looked straight ahead. -From An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, page 143-'I found myself nodding in agreement when McCracken spoke of the pain of answering those innocent questions about children posed by unsuspecting strangers. She wishes for a stack of cards she can hand out which say `My first child was stillborn` whenever a person coos over her second son and asks, ¿is this your first?¿ How I wish I had a similar stack of cards reading ¿I am infertile¿ for every time someone asks if I have children.McCracken writes: 'I want people to know but I don¿t want to say it aloud. people don¿t like to hear it but I think they might not mind reading it on a card. -From An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, page 73-'Yes. I agree.McCracken¿s great gift is that she reveals to her reader her deepest sadness, and her greatest hope. And in the end, she leaves us with a message which can sustain those who have experienced intolerable loss:'It¿s a happy life, but someone is missing. It¿s a happy life, and someone is missing. -From An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, page 184'-This memoir is highly recommended, but with a cautionary note. I believed I had accepted my childlessness until I began reading McCracken¿s words. I found myself closing the book often to weep, and yet I kept going back to read again. For women who have either lost a child or have never been able to conceive, this is
Bbexlibris on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A book for those gone, so early in their little lives that it would seem they were almost a figment of our imagination. Written by a woman who knows what it feels like, what it looks like and how it is all perceived. What? A stillbirth, the loss, the pain, grief, the lists of firsts, of places never returned to, of a child that faded way before he was even seen.McCracken's emotion in this book is not theatrical, over dramatic, or written about in a long prose of self-mope. It is a book of reality, of memories, and memories that should have been, but were not and of the life that continues and the loss that is still felt even when others forget.If I had a stillbirth, this is the book I would grab, and if you haven't this is still the book I would recommend. I do not know this pain or the suffering that surrounds the death of a child, of one not even allowed to experience the first breath. An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination speaks soothing while raw words, from the depths of honesty inside McCracken's stunning pen-shaped-heart.As powerful as Elisabeth McCracken's memoir is, it is endearing, hopeful, sad and unique. This is the story of a woman, and her husband in a country not their own. The story of a baby that was not born, and his brother who would not ever take his place, but who would fill his parent's hearts with joy, even if they would never forget their sweet Pudding (that is what they endearingly named their first child). Ya gotta read it!!
mrstreme on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I think there¿s an old saying that you should never have to bury your child. Outliving my kids ranks number one in things ¿I don¿t want to happen,¿ but sadly, there are parents who face this reality every day.While some parents lose children days, months or years after their births, some parents lose their child before the baby is born, experiencing a stillborn birth. This happened to popular novelist Elizabeth McCracken and was the subject of her memoir, An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination.I have never read a book like this before. As a mom, I am uncomfortable with the thought of losing a child, so I was not sure if I could read McCracken¿s story. But with McCracken¿s easy writing style, I finished her memoir in one day. Every page sucked me in. And while it¿s filled with sadness, you get equal doses of hope and warm memories. She touched on so many important parts of the grieving process, and her reaction to other people¿s reactions taught me a lot about how to support someone experiencing a loss.There were touching moments too. Her chapters about her husband and best friend¿s support made me teary-eyed. What a lovely tribute to them both.McCracken took an uneasy subject and made it very human, very real and very approachable. While it will strike a familiar note with women who experienced the loss of a baby, I think all parents can learn from McCracken¿s story. Having gotten to know her at this level, I hope to read her fictional books some day.
dianajoseph on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book broke my heart then stitched it back together again. It is gorgeously written.
miriamparker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Simple, gorgeous and moving. Plus, her voice is just one that I completely love. She does the sad/funny thing so well. Also, she is my height. Which makes me love her even more.
JessicaStalker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Exact Replica is a touching memoir about a woman who has gone through the unbearable pain of losing a child. Her son is stillborn after a healthy, normal pregnancy. McCracken does an admirable job of expressing her grief. Her sadness leaps off the pages and yet I wasn't sobbing all the way through like I predicted. While perhaps not everyone can relate to losing a child, its her deep pain, unbearable feelings and especially her cautious hope that anyone can understand. Her pain is somehow rewarded by the birth of another child whose sweet presence is known from page one. She juggles her grief and new-found joy carefully. And I can't help but admire her strength and even humor in the wake of such a life-altering tragedy. Whether or not you have children, you'll appreciate this book and McCracken's very personal story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was surprised by this book. It was unexpectedly wry, irreverent and very funny in many parts (who would have thought it?). Gut-wrenching and unspeakable loss is dealt with with clarity and truth by a brave and talented author. This book is very special. It is a triumph. I wished there were more and it were longer, though I can see why the author may not have wished for the same. I hope it was cathartic for her to write but my guess is, like Joan Didion's 'The Year of Magical Thinking', it may not have been that simple...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book for an assignment in my Concepts of Death and Dying graduate course. Elizabeth McCracken is a great writer. I wouldn't have typically picked up this type of book but it was well written and interesting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
RA1 More than 1 year ago
Having just lost my son to stillbirth at 38 weeks just one month ago, I found this book to be a window to my soul. I did not want it to be over because I had found someone who totally understood my emotions. She has many poignant observations. Thank you to the author for allowing us to see her raw emotions and also seeing that there are reasons to hope!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago