The Bright Hour : A Memoir of Living and Dying
by Nina Riggs


Best Books of 2017 Selection by * The Washington Post * O Magazine * NPR * Bitch * Medium *

"Stunning...heartrending...this year's When Breath Becomes Air. 

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More About The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs

Best Books of 2017 Selection by * The Washington Post * O Magazine * NPR * Bitch * Medium *

"Stunning...heartrending...this year's When Breath Becomes Air." --Nora Krug, The Washington Post

"Beautiful and haunting." --Matt McCarthy, MD, USA TODAY

"Deeply affecting...simultaneously heartbreaking and funny." --People (Book of the Week)

"Vivid, immediate." --Laura Collins-Hughes, The Boston Globe

Starred reviews from * Kirkus Reviews * Publishers Weekly* Library Journal *

Most Anticipated Summer Reading Selection by * The Washington Post * Entertainment Weekly * Glamour * The Seattle Times * Vulture * InStyle * Bookpage * Bookriot * Real Simple * The Atlanta Journal-Constitution *

An exquisite memoir about how to live--and love--every day with "death in the room," from poet Nina Riggs, mother of two young sons and the direct descendant of Ralph Waldo Emerson, in the tradition of When Breath Becomes Air.

"We are breathless, but we love the days. They are promises. They are the only way to walk from one night to the other."

Nina Riggs was just thirty-seven years old when initially diagnosed with breast cancer--one small spot. Within a year, the mother of two sons, ages seven and nine, and married sixteen years to her best friend, received the devastating news that her cancer was terminal.

How does one live each day, "unattached to outcome"? How does one approach the moments, big and small, with both love and honesty?

Exploring motherhood, marriage, friendship, and memory, even as she wrestles with the legacy of her great-great-great grandfather, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nina Riggs's breathtaking memoir continues the urgent conversation that Paul Kalanithi began in his gorgeous When Breath Becomes Air. She asks, what makes a meaningful life when one has limited time?

Brilliantly written, disarmingly funny, and deeply moving, The Bright Hour is about how to love all the days, even the bad ones, and it's about the way literature, especially Emerson, and Nina's other muse, Montaigne, can be a balm and a form of prayer. It's a book about looking death squarely in the face and saying "this is what will be."

Especially poignant in these uncertain times, The Bright Hour urges us to live well and not lose sight of what makes us human: love, art, music, words.

  • ISBN-13: 9781501169359
  • ISBN-10: 1501169351
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publish Date: June 2017
  • Page Count: 310
  • Dimensions: 1.25 x 6.5 x 9.25 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds

Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Personal Memoirs
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Women
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Medical - General

BookPage Reviews

A poet's farewell

“The beautiful, vibrant, living world goes on.” Nina Riggs, who died in February, realized this truth during a mundane moment: While teaching her son to ride his bike, she stumbles and releases him. As Benny rides forward, he shouts behind him, checking on his mother.

It’s a simple moment, but to Riggs, whose triple negative breast cancer had been deemed terminal, it encapsulated so much more. When she was diagnosed at age 37, doctors expected her disease to be curable. It was one small spot of cancer, that was all. But it metastasized and, by age 38, Riggs knew the disease would kill her.

Riggs’ husband, John, longs for a return to normalcy. “I have to love these days in the same way I love any other. There might not be a ‘normal’ from here on out,” she responds. “These days are days. We choose how we hold them.”

As she endures chemotherapy and radiation, Riggs faces those days with a clear-eyed determination to fully live. Riggs, herself a poet, examines her impending death through her own lyrical perspective, informed by the writings of her great-great-great-grandfather, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and French philosopher Michel Eyquem de Montaigne.

Part of living, though, is death. Riggs must face it even before her own cancer is deemed terminal: Her mother’s multiple myeloma is fatal. The family concludes her mother’s funeral with an open-ended moment of silence, which Riggs struggles with. Shouldn’t they sound a gong or otherwise give those gathered permission to leave?

No, her brother says. “It’s about honoring the unknowing and the awkwardness and the mystery of dying. It’s unsettling—and that’s okay.”

Through this warmhearted memoir, Riggs writes her way to accepting her own death and the uncertainty that follows it. The Bright Hour is an introspective, well-considered tribute to life. As Riggs’ famed ancestor Emerson writes, “That is morning; to cease for a bright hour to be a prisoner of this sickly body and to become as large as the World.”

This article was originally published in the June 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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