The title for this review comes from the dedication which opens Deirdre Fagan’s collection of short stories, The Grief Eater. This collection follows up on the author’s excellent poetry collection, Have Love, but turns its attention to beautifully written explorations of characters overcome with and attempting to live with grief.
In the story “The Grief Eater,” a young woman can’t stop reading the local obituaries and attending the funerals of people she does not know, initially believing she is doing it for the good of the grieving families and eventually coming to a larger realization about herself and the nature of life. “Dressing The Part” chronicles the events of a woman attempting to deal with having lost her husband. At various points she wears her wedding dress to work and discovers a strange yet movingly fitting way of spreading her husband’s ashes. In “Rotary Dial,” a grief-stricken man begins calling people at random and asking for his wife.
The characters in these stories struggle with that most human pain of how to move on from grief and possibly find a livable space. These psychological portraits of characters at extreme crossroads will strike a deep chord in anyone who has thought about mortality or confronted loss. This is an excellent first collection of stories.
The Grief Eater by Deirdre Fagan. Adelaide Books, 2020.
Reviewer bio: John Cullen’s poetry has appeared in North Dakota Quarterly, American Journal of Poetry, The MacGuffin, and The Cincinnati Review.