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Lifesaving for Beginners

Lifesaving for Beginners

by Anne Edelstein


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When Anne Edelstein was forty-two, her mother, a capable swimmer in good health, drowned while snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef. Caring for two small children of her own, Anne suddenly found herself grieving not only for her emotionally distant mother but also for her beloved younger brother Danny, who had killed himself violently over a decade before. She finds herself wrestling not only with the past and her family’s legacy of mental illness, but also with the emotional well-being of her children. Part memoir and part meditation on joy and grief, the book will resonate with anyone who has ever struggled to come to terms with their parents, their siblings, their children, and their place in the world.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781597096058
Publisher: Red Hen Press
Publication date: 11/07/2017
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Anne Edelstein has worked in the book publishing business for over 25 years, as an editor and then as a literary agent. She grew up in suburban New England as the eldest of three siblings. When she was 28 she lost her brother to suicide, and 15 years later her mother drowned at the age of 68. These two tragedies gave rise to Lifesaving for Beginners, which is her first book. She lives in New York with her husband, and spends part of each year in Barcelona. She enjoys drawing, reading, writing, and traveling, and is an avid swimmer.

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From Lifesaving for Beginners

I wonder about whether to call my uncle Nate to tell him right away, or if I should wait until morning. The news about my mother is strange, but my family is used to death. Unbelievably, Nate is now the only one of my mother’s siblings who is still alive. My aunt Cecile died only a year and a half ago from a quick spreading cancer, my uncle Jack eight years before that when he committed suicide, and now my mother in this mysterious drowning. They’ve all died younger than they were supposed to, my mother the oldest in life and in death at age sixty-eight. And then there’s the death that has always been the hardest, my brother Danny who was only twenty-two when he died. Shocked as I am about my mother, I see no need to act rashly. It’s 2:00 a.m. so I decide I might as well give Nate the rest of the night’s sleep before calling him to say what’s happened.

I just lie there flat on my back, solitary, Roy having drifted back to sleep. I stare up at the ceiling, trying as hard as I can to imagine it—the figure of my mother in the beautiful blue sea under a big bright sky.

At 5:30 a.m. when I hear Eva’s cry, I take her to the other side of the apartment where we can be quiet and alone. Together on the living room couch, her body falls back to sleep on top of me. The early sun begins to light up the room. I look out at the Hudson River, wide and gray and almost stagnant this morning. My mother is now dead, I tell myself.

Eva, very much alive, sleeps peacefully on my chest, her warm breathing delicious. For a few moments it makes sense, there’s an order to this picture. My mother with her plush body that once gave birth to me is on one end. Eva, a year-and-a-half-old perfect bundle of life, is at the other. And I’m in between. But then the logic is lost. My mother, whose life has forever been entangled with mine, has just drowned on the other side of the world.

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