The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

January 16, 2009

Book review: Author finds ‘Comfort’ after daughter’s death

‘Comfort’

By Ann Hood

In a sea of bloated, semi-truthful memoirs that seem written especially for Oprah’s Book Club, some shine in their brevity, honesty and utter simplicity. Ann Hood’s “Comfort” is just such a book.

I must admit that I checked it out because, after reading the front flap, I thought it would detail how knitting helped the author through her grief. I was flooded with memories of knitting, knitting, knitting while my grandmother lay dying in the hospital, and I was curious about Hood’s experience.

Realization quickly dawned that “Comfort” was about much more than knitting. It follows a mother’s journey through grief after losing her young daughter.

One April afternoon, Grace, the light of her family’s life, falls in ballet class and breaks her arm; 48 hours later, she is in a hospital ICU, dying from a vicious strain of strep that had entered her bloodstream and proceeded to destroy her organs. Intubation, antibiotics, surgery — nothing would save her. “A day and a half after I carried her into the ER, Grace died,” Hood states with a directness that made my chest hurt.

She really needs to say nothing more than that. But she does, and the result is “Comfort,” a slim volume brimming with pain and beauty.

After the horror of telling Grace’s brother, after the nightmare of the funeral, friends and family return to their everyday lives and Hood is left with her sorrow. People try to console her with platitudes, urging her to write down her feelings. But the writer cannot put her grief into words. She can’t read, she can’t cook, she can’t do anything. Until one day someone suggests she do something with her hands. Perhaps learn to knit? She does so, sitting in the corner of a yarn shop, and the meditation of knitting soon calms her: “It quieted the images of Grace’s last hours in the hospital. It settled my pounding, fearful heart.”

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