Disaster Falls: A Family Story by Stephane Gerson, a book about a family's grief after the accidental death of their son and brother on a water rapids trip, was incredibly moving. There were times when it was difficult to read but only because of the sadness of the case. This book does feature information about the accident that killed eight-year-old Owen Gerson but it is more about the grief that the family suffers. The author is incredibly honest about how family members often feel towards those who try, or don't try, to comfort the survivors. The different ways in which Stephane, his wife, Alison, and son, Julian, grieve also show that everyone grieves differently but the most striking example of how some people grieve in different and confusing ways is how Stephane's father reacts to hearing Owen's name even years after the accident. While he remains silent and appears to want to erase Owen from the family's history, he still feels profound pain, as the author discovers when Stephane brings up Owen over lunch with his him. A few years after Owen's passing, Stephane's father is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and is not given a positive prognosis. As his father dies, Stephane is able to confront his father for the harsh treatment he received as a child. Through the pain of his losses, the author uses the words of past writers who have shared the experience of losing a child with the Gerson family. These words, intertwined with the wisdom of the author, are a comfort to those who have had the experience of losing a family member. This book was actually more of a comfort to me that that of the popular book on grief, When Bad Things Happen To Good People by Rabbi Harold Kushner. While Kushner also experienced the death of a child and spoke honestly about grief (and gave sage advice on how to handle the guilt that often accompanies it), I found the words in Disaster Falls more comforting. I don't think that one has to lose a child in order to read and understand this book. Everyone will lose a family member at some point and this book will help the reader through the pain and anger that one would feel during such a difficult time.
Upon completing this book, I could not get enough of this author's story. There is a video on the website for the book where the author explains what his book is about and what compelled him to read it. Please visit the author's website disasterfalls.com.
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