Were You Close? to be Published by Vine Leaves Press in 2023
I am ecstatic to have signed a contract with fabulous independent publisher Vine Leaves Press, which will release my first book on April 11, 2023! A memoir about navigating the loss of my beloved older brother, Were You Close? was a semi-finalist for the River Teeth book prize in 2019.
Were You Close? tells the story of a heroic big brother, his little sister, and a perplexing accident that drives her to explore his attraction to risk, their relationship to each other, and how to live in the world and their family without him.
A successful radiologist by profession and elite athlete by passion, Dr. Dave often tended to the blistered feet of strangers on race courses, his dedication to his medical practice overtaking his desire for winning. He was known for his generosity and comradery among family, friends, colleagues, and teammates. But he embarked on his final adventurous quest alone — an attempt to summit all 54 of the 14ers in Colorado solo — and he made an unknown error, leading to his fatal fall.
His sister, twelve years younger, was haunted. When friends and colleagues learned that David had died, they often reacted first by asking, “Were you close?” The question, seemingly simply at first, begged for its own inquiry, a journey that took her a decade.
She followed her brother’s footsteps by reading everything she could get her hands on about traveling and competing in the wilderness, researching his contributions to his athletic community, interviewing a search and rescue volunteer/author, and traveling to the mountain that claimed him. To reorient herself to life without her brother, she attended a bereavement writing group; went back to therapy; studied the largely ignored, but widely shared experience of sibling loss; and wrote extensively about grief and coping.
The only girl and baby of her family, she idolized her older brothers, especially David, who babysat her, taught her to ride her first bike, and spoiled her with attention. When he became a prosperous doctor, she admired his scientific accomplishments. When he competed in adventure races, she cheered on his team. But all she ever really wanted was to have a closeness that the gap in their ages made challenging.
In Were You Close? she deeply considers sudden loss, how differently people handle grief, the way death can further splinter an already divided family, and life in a culture that avoids the mere idea of dying as if it isn’t the great equalizer. She studies old photos, listens to the playlist on his iPod, and pores over items in his eerily quiet house like a detective attempting to know who he really was.
Their mother, his teammates, her surviving brother, and her touring musician husband play parts in her process, as she weathers a hurricane that takes on mystical proportions, divides and distributes David’s ashes, attends the memorial service, and has the surreal experience of disparate characters in her life converging at a nightclub during a city-wide power outage in Houston for a rock show.
She invites the reader along on her own adventure, covering a great deal of physical and emotional geography, as she searches for clarity about who her brother was, attempts to understand what he was trying to conquer and why, and gets so much closer to him in death than she ever did in life.
The Pandemic Midlife Crisis: Gen X Women on the Brink Contributor
I am so honored to have an essay in this new anthology from The HerStories Project among thirty other midlife women who describe their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. The book is scheduled to publish next month, but you can pre-order now! If you do it before July 15, you also get a ticket to an author reading and an e-book version for absolutely FREE (plus, you will make me look good).
Order the book here.
River Teeth Book Prize Semi-Finalist
I’m so thrilled that my memoir manuscript was a semi-finalist for the 2019 River Teeth book prize!
SELF Interview on Grief
What an honor to be interviewed for this important article in SELF: “What Happens When Your Grief Doesn’t Go Away?” by Patia Braithwaite in August 2019.