American Grief in Four Stages is a collection of stories that imagines trauma as a space in which language fails us and narrative escapes us. These stories play with form and explore the impossibility of elegy and the inability of our culture to communicate grief, or sympathy, outside of cliché.
One narrator, for example, tries to understand her brother’s suicide by excavating his use of idioms. Other stories construe grief and trauma in much subtler ways—the passing of an era or of a daughter’s childhood, the seduction of a neighbor, the inability to have children. From a dinner party with Aztecs to an elderly shut-in’s recollection of her role in the Salem witch trials, these are stories that defy expectations and enrich the imagination. As a whole, this collection asks the reader to envisage the ways in which we suffer as both unbearably painful and unbearably American.