I think that we can all agree that last week was rough. Donald Trump is the president-elect and Hillary isn’t. People are running rampant and committing hate crimes. People are realizing that their family members actually voted for the guy and it’s going to make the upcoming holidays so so awkward.
I didn’t know it, but I started reading Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling on the same day the world was ending. I took the book with me to vote so I’d have something to do while waiting in line. I read it that night too when I realized Trump won Pennsylvania, and thus, the presidency, and I gave up watching the news and went to bed dejected and utterly horrified at the prospect of tomorrow.
I’ve long been a fan of Mindy Kaling. I love The Office and her friendship with BJ Novak is serious goals. I’ve also been watching her show, The Mindy Project since season 2 aired (I’m slow on the uptake sometimes). My friends and I went on a roadtrip in 2012 (back when the concept of a Trump presidency wasn’t even a thing yet) and we listened to Mindy’s first book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns). Mindy’s voice means driving through Portland, Maine with my best friends and trying a lobster roll for the first time (fucking delicious, by the way. Everyone needs to go to the Portland Lobster, Co. immediately).
When I’m Gone is about what happens to Luke Richardson after his wife of 16 years dies of cancer. He’s suddenly a single parent of three and he doesn’t quite know how to cope…until the first letter from his wife arrives in a blue envelope. His wife wrote them before she died to help him mourn and transition to his new life. But what he doesn’t know is that Natalie had some big secrets.
But what are the secrets, you ask? Well, you’re just gonna have to read it to find out. And if you have Amazon Prime, you can read When I’m Gone for free with Prime Reading, which is what I did. Or you can check out Emily Bleeker’s website to find out where you can buy it.
Back to why this book made me cry myself to sleep. This book is primarily about loss and learning to cope with it. It spoke to me in particular because I lost a friend suddenly in a car accident a few months ago. It’s something that I’ve been trying to cope with and yet my mind still reels sometimes because I realize all over again that it’s real, it happened, I went to the funeral, and saw where she’s buried.
I can’t know whether this book would make me cry so much if I hadn’t lost my friend this year. I typically don’t cry during movies and while I read books, but in the past couple of months, I’ve read a couple of books that remind me of my friend’s death and I just can’t stop the tears when I read them.
In the beginning of When I’m Gone, Emily Bleeker accurately portrays the disbelief, the numbness mixed with profound anger, and just the utter sadness of losing someone close to you. And that’s what made me cry.
Some quotes that I highlighted in my Kindle are:
Grief seemed to chase away the comfort of sleep, and he longed for a night where he could drift off into a blissfully unaware dreamworld, where life was potentially weird, but definitely less paralyzing.”
This reminded me of what it feels like at the beginning of grief. You’re too sad (as if “sad” is a strong enough word for what you feel when you’re mourning) to sleep, to relax, because your mind, body, and soul are consumed with such intense feeling.
Why do the strong ones always seem to go first?”
Grieving leaves us feeling weak. We see the people we lost as the stronger ones and we wish we could take their place instead. We’re helpless to do anything, especially when something like cancer is slowly taking over your loved one’s body. If doctors and modern medicine couldn’t save them, how could you?
But the feeling of helplessness persists even when the death happens suddenly. You couldn’t have possibly seen this coming, so you’re powerless to do anything to prevent it.
How could everyone else find it so simple to slip back into life, the world revolving, businesses opening and closing, buying and selling, when the pillow on the right side of his bed was empty every night?”
This quote spoke to me the most, because it’s something I’ve wondered before. The people mourning a death have been irrevocably changed and their lives are suddenly upside down. And yet, people unaffected by it can just continue on with their lives as if nothing happened – because for them, nothing has happened.
It boggled my mind when I went into work the Monday after my friend’s funeral. Everything was normal and I wanted to scream “DON’T YOU KNOW ONE OF THE BEST PEOPLE ON THIS PLANET DIED LAST WEEK? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?” But instead, I said nothing. I didn’t tell anyone that the weekend was one of the hardest of my life. I couldn’t tell them that I made eye contact with my friend’s parents during the funeral and my soul crumbled inside me.
If you’re looking for a book that might give you a good cry, definitely read When I’m Gone. It’s not just a story of loss and grieving. It’s a story about family coming together in the face of unimaginable adversity and finding family in people who aren’t related to you. The book spans several months after the death of Luke’s wife, so you see him and his family grow through all of the stages of grief together.
There’s a mystery in his wife’s letters that keeps you interested (did her secret really die with her or will Luke find out the truth?). And you also find out more about Luke and Natalie’s relationship and about their backgrounds.
I don’t know if I’d read this book again, especially since I know the result of the mystery in the letters, but I’d recommend it for people going through a loss. I’ve had a difficult time crying lately and this book opened up the flood gates, and it’s what I needed.
TL;DR: When I’m Gone is a pretty good book and it’ll likely make you cry your eyes out in your bed at 11pm all by yourself.