A 'Young Widower' Tells His Story

At the Los Angeles Review of Books, Nicholas Montemarano reviews John W. Evans's Young Widower: A Memoir, which recounts the author's horrific experience of watching his wife being mauled and killed by a bear.  Montemarano reflects on where Evans's memoir fits in with other grief texts and the therapeutic value of telling one's story in the aftermath of trauma:
In grief memoirs, however, writers have chosen to proclaim and publish their traumas as works of art, and thus invite us to judge them as such. In Young Widower, Evans speaks the unspeakable as directly as possible on page two: “My wife’s death was violent and sensational. She was killed by a wild bear, while we were hiking in the Carpathian Mountains outside of Bucharest, where we had lived and worked for the last year of her life. She was thirty years old.” Then, like Tim O’Brien in The Things They Carried, Evans circles around the trauma, inevitably returning to it, often using the same words and phrases like mantras, building on what he has previously described. One gets the sense of a storyteller testing the waters of what he is capable of, then backing away to describe other moments during his life with Katie and after her death — how they met, his failed attempts to propose, the year after her death when he lived with her family in Indiana — before returning again to what he must eventually tell in every detail he can remember. As Evans writes, “A therapist said to think of Katie’s death as a story. Name the parts that are too difficult, and then leave them out. Tell the story again and again, until those difficult parts come back.”
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