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"Here After" | Reviewed by Chris Stuckenschneider

Somber, personal, heart-wrenching and wise describes Amy Lin’s gripping memoir, “Here After.” The Canadian author was widowed at 31, after being married to her husband for a mere 21 months, though the couple had been together for 7 years.

Kurtis simply went out for a run on August 15, 2020, and died, probably expired before his body even hit the pavement of the bridge he was running across, his brief life cut short at 32. Though an autopsy was done, the reason for his death was never substantiated.

Lin’s journey toward acceptance of this tragedy, of not having Kurtis in her life anymore, is a dismal, frightening, paralyzing process that doesn’t follow a sensible or predictable timeline. Nor does Lin’s hard-hitting memoir, delivered in bits and pieces of powerful, yet simple text on half-filled pages, the author moving back and forward in time from the day the couple met, to their dating days and marriage. Pure love is apparent as she writes about their conversations, and of her unadulterated grief.

On page 2, Lin excerpts from an online post: “What is the one thing you wish other people knew about grief?” She includes the first 12 of several hundred responses: “It doesn’t end. It won’t stop. You think about it all the time. It never ends. It is always with you. …It is forever.”

On the facing page, Linn describes her first date with Kurtis, his job as an architect, hers as an elementary teacher. Bits of great joy and consuming sorrow continue throughout a memoir so personal you feel like you’re having a one-on-one conversation with Lin.

The death of a spouse tops the list of the greatest stressors in life. In addition to that horrendous adjustment, Lin has her own near-brush with death. Shortly after Kurtis dies, her father, who is a doctor urges her to go to the hospital after her leg grows painful and discolored. Tests show blood clots in her leg and lungs, a condition that requires multiple tests and a plethora of painful procedures. Fortunately, Lin has parents who support her, taking her to doctor’s appointments and welcoming her into their home after her husband’s death.

“Here After” is a small book—an easy read, but not an easy read. While the text is simple and accessible, death and grief are not pleasant topics. In other people’s pain we see our own mortality. Regardless, this memoir is an important book. Through Lin’s experiences we learn about grief, what to say, or not say to others, how to be patient and accepting of our own process, when and if we lose a loved one. Lin is honest in her writing--offering no pat answers, no ending tied up in a bright ribbon.




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