…passionate and moving…[a] beautifully written account of Goldman's short marriage to Estrada…while Goldman's gifts as a reporter are on full display…the truth that emerges in this book has less to do with the mystery of her deathwhich, at its core, is the mystery of all tragic deathsthan with the miracle of the astonishing, spirited, deeply original young woman Goldman so adored. "I always wished that I could know what it was like to be Aura," he writes. Goldman revives her through the only power left to him. So remarkable is this resurrection that at times I felt the book itself had a pulse.
The New York Times
Goldman's long cry of pain seems more like memoir than novel. The use of real names, the apparent cleaving to historical facts, the relentless attentiveness to detail and feelingall suggest that tenebrous realm we've come to know through the eloquence of Joan Didion and Joyce Carol Oates. Regardless of form, Goldman shares their dark territory. As to what a writer should write about his private life, the answer is that writers have no private lives: We write what we know. Goldman here bears witness to his anguish, which is mighty.
The Washington Post
Goldman's (The Divine Husband) fifth book is a highly personal account of the author's life in the aftermath of his young wife's drowning. Goldman moves in time from meeting Aura in New York and her harrowing death on Mexico's Pacific Coast to the painful and solitary two years that followed in Brooklyn, marked in part by his mother-in-law's claim that he was responsible for Aura's death. His struggles to exonerate himself from his own conscience, and from his mother-in-law's legal threats, is electric and poignant, encapsulated in painful such moments as the author's discovery of "the indentations of Aura's scooping fingers like fossils" in the surface of her face scrub soon after her death. Goldman also includes fragments of Aura's fiction and her diary: "Played Atari like crazy, rearranged my Barbie house" recall her youth in Mexico City, and "We're on a plane, we've spent most of the day traveling, Paco asleep on my shoulder" illuminate the private moments of the couple's life. Goldman calls this book a novel and employs some novelistic techniques (composite characters, for instance), but the foundation is in truth: messy, ugly, and wildly complicated truth. (Apr.)
"Out of crushing loss and despair, Goldman has forged a radiant and transcendent masterpiece." Booklist Starred Review
With total candor, Goldman (The Divine Husband) describes his life with his wife, Aura Estrada, who died tragically in 2007. This is only a novel in that he changed names to protect some specific identities; otherwise the story is true. This is an authentic work of the heart and soul. He and Aura had a short married life, but one can tell they were happy. They were both gifted writers. He was significantly older; her mother was controlling, and her father absent. Aura was a bright light of ineffable humanity. Goldman describes Aura and his life with her in a gradual way that circles backward and forward in time from the present. He fills in the story bit by bit; the actual description of the accident coming last. VERDICT The feeling, the memorial incarnation that this book creates, is monumental. Essential for all libraries. This book about tragic death is a gift for the living.—Henry Bankhead, Los Gatos P.L., CA
A nonfiction novel of love and loss...and perhaps even a little redemption.
In the Author's Note, Goldman makes clear that much of this novel is based on the facts of his life. The main characters are named Francisco Goldman and Aura Estrada, a married couple. Goldman (in real life) lost his 30-year-old wife Aura in a freak accident on a beach in Mexico, as does the "Goldman" of the narrative. Both Goldmans are novelists; both Auras are writers of fiction. Goldman (the author) weaves into his story excerpts from journals and short stories penned by his late wife. While all this logistical complexity could conceivably be confusing, at some level it doesn't matter what's "truth" and what's "fiction," for the story is inherently moving and tragic, and it focuses on loss and lament—universal themes whether they derive from memoir or from an author's imagination. The novel moves back and forth chronologically, starting at Aura's death and providing generous flashbacks into both Aura and Goldman's life. When they met, he was an accomplished journalist and a gifted novelist in his mid-40s, and she a talented graduate student from Mexico who'd come to Columbia to earn her doctorate in comparative literature. Along the way she decides she would like to study creative writing, so she co-enrolls in an MFA program at Hunter College. Aura is sprightly, witty and free-spirited, while Goldman is an extremely creative but self-admittedly overgrown adolescent. Their love is deep, and Goldman feels inconsolable at her loss. Shortly after Aura's death, her domineering mother Juanita begins a campaign against Goldman, suggesting that he was in some way responsible for her death and threatening to bring a lawsuit against him.With pathologically maternal petulance, she refuses to let Goldman have some of Aura's ashes for him to take back to their New York apartment. Toward the end of the novel, he begins to accommodate himself to Aura's loss and to a limited extent to Juanita's fractiousness.
Appropriately, in this novel of death and dying, Goldman writes gorgeous, heartbreaking prose.