I realized that was how heartbreak occurred. Your heart wants something, but reality resists it. Death is inert and heavy, and it has no relation to your heart's desires.
Zinzi Clemmons was working on her MFA at Columbia when she got the news: her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Over the next year, she cared for her mother while writing portions of What We Lose, her debut novel. The book is based on the author’s own experience caring for her mother after the cancer diagnosis. Like Zinzi, the main character, Thandi, was raised by a South African mother and an African American father. She spends summers in South Africa with her mother’s family and tries to understand the political landscape of post-apartheid Johannesburg. While this book poses weighty questions about race/ gender/ wealth in both Johannesburg and Philadelphia, the writing most importantly focuses on the experience of losing a parent. What We Lose is not written in any sort of traditional narrative. It is composed of paragraph length reflections, sentence long declarations (there is one page that just says "Sex is kicking death in the ass while singing"), photos, hastily drawn graphs, and news clippings. The story is not linear— after writing the book, Zinzi separated the different sections and rearranged them. The book jumps from year to year with little warning. Though this style sometimes irritates me, Zinzi does everything right here.
I love this book. You can read it in a day or two. Be prepared with tissues.