In the Midst of Winter: a review
by Kara L.C. Jones

In the Midst of Winter by Mary Jane Moffat
Selections from the Literature of Mourning
Published by Vintage Books
ISBN 0-679-73827-4
U.S. retail $14

This book first found its way to me via a friend at work. She had this well-worn, first edition copy of the book, and she wanted me to read it, but she did not want to part with her copy permanently. I figured I would look at it a bit and return it. No big deal. But then I began reading. I realized that her copy was well-worn because she was using it, reading it, had kept it close as the years went by as a way of checking in, reviewing the grief & healing path.

Though grief is completely random and a total beast, this book seems to be a bit of a map. For me I found that I could open to any page at the beginning of any day -- or at the beginning of a torrent of tear, or a random rage of emotion -- and inevitably I'd find a small bit of comfort, a little guidance, a tiny ray of that dust-flecked sunshine, which I could hold on to for dear life!

Moffat seems to have covered every nook and cranny of literature in her research for pulling this book together. There are excerpts and quotes from everyone!!! From the Bible to Chekhov. From Shakespeare to Lucille Clifton. From Dickinson to Sharon Olds. Amazing collection!

The book is divided into seasons, i.e., Winter, Spring, Summer/Fall, but I think it is the sub-sections that are most interesting. From "Grief's Distractions" to "Grief's Wisdom". From "Ambivalence, Relief, Regrets" to "Idealization and Anger". From "Mourning the Loss of a Child" to "Widows and Widowers". Just looking at the table of contents reminds me of that story of Buddha where the bereaved mother begs to have her son back. Buddha tells her he will restore her son to life, if she promises to visit every household in the community until she can find the one that is without grief. Needless to say, she discovers that everyone has lost someone they love. This book is the literary "who's who" of those who were affected by grief and wrote about it.

Inspiring and helpful -- I know have my own copy, thank you. And my friend has her copy back. Now it's your turn. If you don't believe me, check it out at the library first. You won't want to return it, I swear.


Reviews coming soon:

When Children Grieve by John W. James & Russell Friedman from Harper Collins

The Grief Recovery Handbook by John W. James & Russell Friedman from Harper Collins

Jizo Bodhisattva by Jan Chozen Bays from Tuttle

My Teen Angel from SDS Publishing

Shadow Child by Beth Powning

The Peace Book from the Peace Company


Reviewer Biography
Kara L.C. Jones lives, works, loves, and plays on Vashon Island in the Puget Sound. She's a Kevin Smith fan, guerrilla artist, advocate for bereaved parents, henna artist, writer, founder, editor, wife, daugher, friend to turtles, lover of star fish, locator of sand dollars, and author of Mrs. Duck & the Woman. If you have comment or question, please email her at

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