Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman

Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman
Published by Grove Press ISBN 978-082119810
Hardcover $24
288 pages

Francisco Goldman fell in love with the much younger Aura, a graduate student from Mexico, studying literature at Columbia University. To his surprise, she agreed to marry him and they lived a very happy life. He recounts their short life together in his fictional memoir Say Her Name.

On vacation in Mexico, Aura has a surfing accident and dies. Goldman is devastated, and his pain is made more unbearable by his mother-in-law who blames him for her daughter's death, and vows that he will pay for what he has done. She implies that there was foul play, and not only does he have to deal with his loss, he has to worry about being arrested for Aura's death.

Goldman's grief is palpable and visceral. He was
"no longer him. No longer a husband. No longer a man who goes to the fish store to buy dinner for himself and his wife. In less than a year I would be no longer a husband than I was a husband."
Not written as a traditional memoir, Goldman tells Aura's story, using her own writings and diaries to do so. Aura is a poet, and this book has a very poetic, almost dreamy feel to it. He delves into her childhood, her close relationship with her mother, and her insecurities. Although we know that Aura dies, she comes to vivid life on the pages of this book. It is a loving tribute from a husband to his wife.

Goldman lays his grief out on the page for all to see, and it is hard to read at times. He cannot bear to pass by the restaurants and other places they used to go to together. He builds a shrine to her in their apartment, complete with her wedding dress hanging on the mirror.

Say Her Name takes the reader on an honest, emotional journey. We get to know Aura so that her death has an effect on us.  There is an element of mystery as well; how did Aura die and did her husband have any responsibility?

Aura and Goldman both studied Mexican and South American literature; if I knew more about it, that would have deepened my appreciation of the book even more.

Readers who liked Calvin Trillin's About Alice and Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking will be moved by this story as well.

Rating 4 of 5 stars

 

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