Book Review: Mourning Has Broken by Erin Davis

My colleague picked up Mourning Has Broken by Erin Davis at the OLA Super Conference. She felt it would be an interesting read because she had listened to the radio broadcaster and therefore knew a little of the author’s story. I accepted the book as I have enjoyed memoirs in the past and thought reading about how a person overcame grief would be inspirational.

Genre: Memoir

Blurb:

On the morning of May 11, 2015, Erin Davis, one of Canada’s most beloved radio personalities, suffered a devastating blow when her daughter Lauren, who had marked a joyous Mother’s Day with her husband and young son only hours before, failed to awaken to her baby’s cries.

Thus began Erin’s journey of grieving out loud with her family, friends and listeners, and of demonstrating by example how to pick up and keep going after suffering the worst loss a parent can endure.

For months after Lauren’s heart stopped beating, the reason for which the coroner said might never be known, Erin would awaken from a restless night’s sleep and look at the clock wondering, Is this the time she died? How could a mother sleep through the night when a part of herself had been torn from this life? How did my heart not stop too? she wondered.

My thoughts:

I opened the book with the expectation that I would be reading a personal experience of a person overcoming grief. I was disappointed when I realised that the story was written as a journalist would write it. Even though the memoir was written in the first person, the author does not dig deep and expose raw emotions. It is as if a barrier has been placed between the reader and the writer’s inward emotions. Davis tells us about the facts and outlines a sequence of events but hesitates to let us in and experience the raw grief that she had.

The writing in this memoir is definitely a case of tell and not show. Davis describes to the reader, in detail, her thought processes and what she was thinking as she experienced her grief over the loss of her daughter. At times the writing is a bit repetitive and tedious. In addition, the timeline in the book jumps around a bit and I found myself having to piece together the progression of grief and its lessening over the two years described in the book.

There were moments when I felt that the writing in the memoir was more emotional and in depth. The pages in which Davis writes about her alcohol dependence (before her daughter’s death) made more of a connection with me than the rest. If she had opened up about her grief in this way, I would certainly have enjoyed this memoir more.

Even though I have experienced grief, I have not lost a child and, while reading Davis’ words, I did not experience a sense of what it would be like. For readers who have lost their children to death, the memoir may be more appealing as they could compare their experience to the writer’s. Those who know of Erin Davis as a radio personality, may enjoy this book as well because it gives the reader a snippet of her life. For me, however, the memoir fell flat.

I give this novel ⭐️ 1 star.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 43rd in my book pledge for 2019)

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A Childhood Memory: Break Time

The school bell rang. Break time! The sound of young feet thundered down the stairwell,  accompanied by excited voices. Twenty minutes of freedom to be outside. To play. To run. To be young children unencumbered by responsibility and worry. I clambered down the stairs with my friends, leaving the monotony of standard 3 lessons behind me. Thinking back, I cannot remember who our teacher was. What I do remember, however, is the group of girls I spent time with both at school and after school. I remember the games we played, and the songs we used to dance to in the living room of my best friend. I remember the afternoons after school spent at the swimming pool and in the sauna of one of my buddies.

Break time at school was meant to eat lunch and to spend some time outside in the fresh air. To us it was something more. It meant gobbling down our sandwich on the run and then playing our games. We enjoyed playing elastic with the stash I had begged from my mom’s sewing box. But during the winter days, we  ‘built’ houses with the grasses that had been cut and left to dry in our school field. My group of friends, as well as the group of my sister’s, worked on our task with enthusiasm. We did as much as we could during our free time, knowing that  before school we would continue with our building and our play. Placing the grasses into a sort of circular rondawel  helped with our imaginary play.

When the ringing bells pealed across the large fields, the school children attired in dusty uniforms reluctantly moved towards the brick two-story building that housed our classrooms. The gust of wind stirring the cut grasses and the eddies of dust did little to encourage us to return indoors. We would rather have been playing outside under the African sun than to be seated behind desks listening to the teacher drone on about things I have forgotten.

(The prompt made me think back to when I was at school in standard 3 – or grade 5 as it is now known. The primary school that I attended was newly built and had had no developed fields when I was a student there. We played on grounds that were dusty and in the veld that had been set aside for track fields, cricket and soccer fields. In the winter, the tall grasses were cut to dry in an effort to prevent fire. As children, we loved playing with the grasses and using it for imaginative play. By the time I left the school to go onto high school, the parents had raised enough money to lay down proper grass for a track field.)

img_1654What do you remember when you were 10 years old?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This post is linked to the Tuesday Writing Prompt Challenge . This week the prompt is to think back to when you were 10 years old)

Share Your World: Life Changing Events

List things or events that changed your life.

  1. Attending university. At the tertiary institution, I found my voice and learned to express my opinion. I had always been a quiet child and at school was hardly noticed. While at university I found my confidence and came to realise that my opinion and actions do count for something.
  2. My first full-time job as a teacher. I chose to work at what, at that time, was labelled a street school: an environment created for high school students in the centre of Johannesburg. Here I taught children who did not have access to schooling in the townships. Teaching children of a race with whom I had hardly come into contact, broadened my horizons. I also felt that I was contributing positively to my society.
  3. Spending a year in Europe. During this time I was completely on my own and I was forced to do things for myself. I certainly grew in independence.
  4. Buying my own home. As a teacher, I did not earn much money in South Africa. To supplement my income, I worked at two other jobs and was finally able to buy a place of my own. I loved living in my own space.
  5. Getting married – to both a man and his child. Getting married and living with someone else forces a person to compromise. Sometimes a lot. And moving in with a teenager was not easy.
  6. Relocating to another country. Luckily I did not have to learn another language – even though Canadian English is a little different to the English I was used to. Learning the ropes and how another country worked was not easy with two toddlers constantly in my company.

Complete this sentence: Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s…

Superman! This phrase always makes me think of my childhood and when we used to listen to the stories on Springbok Radio in the afternoon after school. I remember sitting around the radio with my sisters eagerly listening to the exciting tales broadcast over the radio.

What genre of music do you like?

I love any music that I can dance to. There are times when I am in the mood for classical music but that does not happen too often. Currently I am listening to music that is played in Zumba classes. The better you know a song, the better you know the timing and when movement will change. The result? You can listen to the music and allow it to lead you into movement.

041514 sywbannerWhat would you answer to any of these questions?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This post is linked to Cee’s Share Your World weekly challenge). 

Share Your World: Memories

Cee has a couple of searching questions this week. Thinking about the answers to these questions, I realise that it is important that we know ourselves.

What is your earliest memory?

Image result for koo mixed fruit jamThe first thing that comes to my mind when I think far back to the past are snapshots of myself and the people that were in my life at that time. Memories are hampered by the photographs we have looked at repeatedly, aren’t they? One true memory, which I know was never photographed, is when I was about 6 years old. I remember being at school in grade 1 and sitting alone in the huge concrete pipes that were in the school playground. Going to school was new to me (I stayed home with my mom until then), and so was making friends (I was used to playing with my sisters and cousins). I remember as well eating my lunch – a sandwich of white bread spread with mixed fruit jam. I remember eating many such sandwiches – so many that I cannot stomach eating mixed fruit jam on my bread to this day.

Which way does the toilet paper roll go? Over or under?

Definitely over! Whenever someone in my family places it the other way, I change it!

What makes you feel grounded?

What grounds me has depended on what stage of my life I am in. When we first moved to Toronto, it was my little family (husband and children) who kept me centred. Because of their love, I was able to move through painful homesickness and sadness. Right now, my family continue to ground me and they are a major reason for my day to day contentment. I take pride in seeing my children grow – not only physically but in other ways as well. I am happy to have married someone with whom I can still spend time after 19 years together. My family is the reason I do many of the things that I do.

What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week? 

Last Saturday, we decided to eat dinner at a restaurant instead of cooking at home. My husband chose a restaurant in Chinatown that he had previously enjoyed. The food was delicious! Now that my girls are older, we can eat more adventurously and no longer need to settle for plain dishes.

I smile when my husband says we should eat there more often. I think we will – but it may have to wait until Summer once the girls get too busy at school.

041514 sywbannerWhat would you answer to any of these questions?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This post is linked to Cee’s Share Your World weekly challenge). 

Free Write Friday: I Remember

Don't forget your badge!

I remember break time. It was a time I did not enjoy. Being outside, alone. I remember sitting in the concrete tube: it was huge, round and smooth. It was a good place to sit and eat my sandwich in solitude. I remember opening my lunchbox and thinking, “Peanut butter, again!” Lunch was always the same: two slices of bread glued together with All Gold Fruit Jam, or Black Cat Peanut Butter. I ate because it was time to eat, and I had nothing better to do. I sat on the concrete curve, shaping my back against its smooth coolness. I heard the cries of the children outside my cocoon – playing ‘catches’. How I wished that I could join them! But I was too timid, too shy, too unused to being with strangers – even if they were children. I smothered my longing with a bite of the sandwich, the sticky texture adhering to my palate. I remember day was warm. My legs were uncovered, my white ankle socks high enough to keep the brand new shoes from hurting the bony back of my feet. The trees in the playground were green, and the grass had not yet been worn away by the running feet of children. The bell rang. Finally. I left the safety of my haven and walked towards the line outside the classroom. At least inside I could work happily on the activities given to me by the teacher. Maybe inside I could learn to make friends.

(Kellie is back! Join her and her writing bandits for the first #FWF prompt. This week we are asked to write about our first memory. My memory is of the first days at school when I knew no-one and had not yet made friends.)

Day 21: Wave Goodbye

The end of the school year always arrives with mixed feelings. I feel thankful for the upcoming school break and always look forward to the rest. However, as I wave goodye to my students on the last day of school I do feel a little sadness.

During the school year I get to know each child as well as I can. I help them through a learning discovery for a year and encourage them to develop their skills. I get to understand their personalities and figure out a way in which to motivate them. When April comes around, we are all used to one another and have found a way in which to work together.

As I wave goodbye and wish my students well for their summer vacation, I wish that I could continue with them on their educational journey. But it is not to be. I reconcile myself that we will meet in the hallways.

photo (52)© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

(This post was written for the FMF 31 day challenge hosted by Kate Motaung. Today’s prompt: wave)

Missed a post? Click here to read all my memoirs for the series titled Blackboard Scribbles.

Day 7: Love My Work

To love your work as a teacher, there are a few things that you should enjoy:

  • Spending many hours with children. Working with young children requires patience and understanding of how their inexperienced minds work; working with adolescents requires patience of a different kind – and a willingness to talk about a wide range of topics.
  • Being creative. The best lessons are those in which the children are actively engaged. Being creative allows one to think of various activities and games that the children can enjoy.
  • Taking risks. A desire to try something new can lead to an improved learning experience. Ideas and activities do not always work out but they will add to your experience as a teacher.
  • Putting in the extra time at home so that the children in your class can benefit from the extra effort. Teaching is not a 9-5 job. Instead, work is done after hours and often on weekends.

Enjoyment of children, creativity and trying new things are factors that lead me to loving my work. I have tried working at office jobs – but I always return to the classroom.

photo (52)© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

(This post was written for the FMF 31 day challenge hosted by Kate Motaung. Today’s prompt: love)

Missed a post? Click here to read all my memoirs for the series titled Blackboard Scribbles.

Day 6: Anything is Possible

The high school students I taught at Qhakaza were often discouraged. Many had written, and failed, their grade 12 external exam. They had previously attended schools where teachers were continously on strike, or were not interested in teaching them. School riots were common in the townships at that time and often students’ education was interrupted.

I began each school year by helping my students believe that improvement in English is possible, that hard work can help them pass and improve their grade. Each student had a small glimmer of hope inside of them (which is why they attended school so far from their homes) and I set to fanning it so that their belief in themselves and their desire to receive the School Leaving Certificate grew.

Anything is possible. And I saw it many times. Children who had failed their English exam entered my classroom each year. Dedication and hard work on my part as well as that of the boys and girls in my class, led to children passing my subject – and sometimes surpassing all expectations. When scanning the results in the papers after Christmas, I always felt a sense of satisfaction that a goal had been achieved.

photo (52)© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

(This post was written for the FMF 31 day challenge hosted by Kate Motaung. Today’s prompt: possible)

Missed a post? Click here to read all my memoirs for the series titled Blackboard Scribbles.

Day 5: At Home

My first weeks of teaching at Qhakaza in Johannesburg were invigorating – and yet tiring. I felt the same emotions when I began teaching inToronto: happy to be back working with children but exhausted at the end of the day. No matter what grade I have taught, nor in which country, one constant has remained the same. On entering my home, I take off my shoes, make myself a drink, and spend some quiet time alone.

Home has become the sanctuary where I relax and recharge my energy. Working with children, no matter what their age, does take plenty of my energy. As a teacher, I give of myself to my students the entire day: to ensure that work is being done and is understood, I am on my feet. At times squabbles need to be dealt with, or direction needs to be given.

Home time gives me the opportunity to think on how I will present a lesson to my class. I also think of activities I can do with them – and take the time to create them. Making games is possible with my computer, a colour printer, scissors and glue. Often I am sitting with my feet up cutting or colouring. Yes, being a teacher gives me the freedom to be creative and to do things that children enjoy.

The proximity of my family, a delicious meal at the end of the day, and a good night’s sleep. All of these things enable me to arrive at work the next day recharged and ready to begin my day.

photo (52)© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

(This post was written for the FMF 31 day challenge hosted by Kate Motaung. Today’s prompt: home)

Missed a post? Click here to read all my memoirs for the series titled Blackboard Scribbles.

Day 4: Embracing My Calling

It did not take long for me to embrace the experience I had been led to. I adapted to my environment and learned to use the tools available to me: the blackboard, a box of chalk and the photocopying machine. No textbooks were on hand so I bought a copy of texts that were available in the bookstore and used them as a springboard for creating my own worksheets. The newspaper and magazines were perfect resources for comprehensions; old external exams were a guide to the type of questions I prepared my students to answer; the news was a starting point for so many debates and unprepared speeches.

I slowly became used to the many names I had not heard of before. I remember vividly a boy whose name I could not say – Mpumelelo. We all laughed at my attempt at pronouncing his given name. He made a concession for me: he chose a name he liked and said I could call him Luke. I taught him for three years and, even when I could pronounce his Zulu name, he requested that I continue to call him by the English name he had chosen.

As I welcomed Qhakaza and the students that attended the school into my life, I thrived. The owner of the school encouraged me to take initiative and gave me free reign on running my classes. My involvement with the children extended into after school hours: I would take them to experience their first live theatre; I would work with them in their preparations for a year end concert; I would spend Saturday mornings helping them to prepare for their grade 12 final exam.

I embraced Qhakaza; and the students of Qhakaza embraced me. The 9 years I spent at the school helped me to grow as a teacher; and satisfied my desire to help children who were in need.

photo (52)© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

(This post was written for the FMF 31 day challenge hosted by Kate Motaung. Today’s prompt: embrace)

Missed a post? Click here to read all my memoirs for the series titled Blackboard Scribbles.