The Light of the World
A Memoir (Pulitzer Prize in Letters: Biography Finalist)
May 2015 Indie Next List
— Carole Home (W), Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, MA
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In The Light of the World, Elizabeth Alexander finds herself at an existential crossroads after the sudden death of her husband. Channeling her poetic sensibilities into a rich, lucid price, Alexander tells a love story that is, itself, a story of loss. As she reflects on the beauty of her married life, the trauma resulting from her husband's death, and the solace found in caring for her two teenage sons, Alexander universalizes a very personal quest for meaning and acceptance in the wake of loss.
The Light of the World is at once an endlessly compelling memoir and a deeply felt meditation on the blessings of love, family, art, and community. It is also a lyrical celebration of a life well-lived and a paean to the priceless gift of human companionship. For those who have loved and lost, or for anyone who cares what matters most, The Light of the World is required reading.
Praise For The Light of the World: A Memoir (Pulitzer Prize in Letters: Biography Finalist)…
"This is a beautifully written, heartrendingly candid account of the abrupt loss of her husband by the distinguished poet Elizabeth Alexander. It is a vivid, intensely rendered elegy of a remarkable man--husband, father, artist, chef. Both a memoir and a portrait of a marriage, The Light of the World is, as its title suggests, a bittersweet testament to love and the memory of love, one of the most compelling memoirs of loss that I have ever read."—Joyce Carol Oates
Praise for Elizabeth Alexander
"Elizabeth Alexander creates intellectual magic in poem after poem."—The New York Times Book Review
"Elizabeth Alexander is a student, and dare I say, master of the craft. Her work is inspirational in a way that The Great Gatsby...is inspirational, in that it just says so much about who we are."—The Atlantic
Grand Central Publishing, 9781455599868, 240pp.
Publication Date: September 6, 2016
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. Consider the title of the book, which is taken from a poem by Derek Walcott: “O Beauty, you are the light of the world!”. What did you think about it before you read the memoir? What do you think now?
2. In particular, address the question of self-pity. Does Alexander pity herself? In what ways does she indulge that impulse, and in what ways does she deny it?
3. Read the Jeannette Walls blurb at the beginning of the book. Why do you suppose she describes The Light of the World as a “book about the redemptive realization that such pain is a small price to pay for such love?”
4. Discuss the notion of what it means to grieve in the absence of religious culture. Have you ever searched for meaning after a loss, where none initially presented itself? How did it hinder or help your healing?
5. Consider Alexander’s use of time throughout the book. How did it help structure the story and how did it affect your reading experience?
6. Before The Light of the World, had you ever read any of Elizabeth Alexander’s poetry? Are there passages in which her poetic attention to word, rhythm, and musicality are particularly evident?