Joyce Carol Oates
Sigmund Freud identified four tasks of what he labelled "grief work": to recognise and accept the loss; to mourn the loss; to perform the new tasks of life the loss has thrust upon the bereaved; and to look to a new future.
Give Joyce Carol Oates high marks on all of the above. Her unflinchingly courageous memoir on the sudden death of her husband of 47 years in 2008 is harrowing, poignant and, surely, cathartic. One marvels at her ultimate resilience, the ability to put one foot in front of the other - even in the grip of bewilderment, derangement and anguish - and triumph over the human condition.
Less clinical and more revealing than Joan Didion's memoir The Year of Magical Thinking, Oates's work burns with a fevered agony on each of its 416 pages, as the acclaimed US author of more than 50 books lays bare her heart and soul. She tells her story in a curiously compelling disjointed way - you will never see so many dashes and sentence fragments on one page and in one book - that mirrors her shock, confusion and loneliness. To read it is to be ennobled.