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Disaster Falls : A Family Story
by Stephane Gerson


Overview - A haunting chronicle of what endures when the world we know is swept away

On a day like any other, on a rafting trip down Utah's Green River, St phane Gerson's eight-year-old son, Owen, drowned in a spot known as Disaster Falls. That night, as darkness fell, St phane huddled in a tent with his wife, Alison, and their older son, Julian, trying to understand what seemed inconceivable.  Read more...


 
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More About Disaster Falls by Stephane Gerson
 
 
 
Overview
A haunting chronicle of what endures when the world we know is swept away

On a day like any other, on a rafting trip down Utah's Green River, St phane Gerson's eight-year-old son, Owen, drowned in a spot known as Disaster Falls. That night, as darkness fell, St phane huddled in a tent with his wife, Alison, and their older son, Julian, trying to understand what seemed inconceivable. "It's just the three of us now," Alison said over the sounds of a light rain and, nearby, the rushing river. "We cannot do it alone. We have to stick together."

Disaster Falls chronicles the aftermath of that day and their shared determination to stay true to Alison's resolution. At the heart of the book is an unflinching portrait of a marriage tested. Husband and wife grieve in radically different ways that threaten to isolate each of them in their post-Owen worlds. ("He feels so far," St phane says when Alison shows him a selfie Owen had taken. "He feels so close," she says.) With beautiful specificity, St phane shows how they resist that isolation and reconfigure their marriage from within.

As St phane navigates his grief, the memoir expands to explore how society reacts to the death of a child. He depicts the "good death" of his father, which reveals an altogther different perspective on mortality. He excavates the history of the Green River--rife with hazards not mentioned in the rafting company's brochures. He explores how stories can both memorialize and obscure a person's life--and how they can rescue us.

Disaster Falls is a powerful account of a life cleaved in two--raw, truthful, and unexpectedly consoling.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781101906699
  • ISBN-10: 1101906693
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group (NY)
  • Publish Date: January 2017
  • Page Count: 272
  • Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.79 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Personal Memoirs
Books > Family & Relationships > Death, Grief, Bereavement
Books > Family & Relationships > Parenting - Fatherhood

 
BookPage Reviews

Utah's unforgiving rapids

The five stages of grief are a well-known reaction to loss, but Stéphane Gerson added a sixth when his 8-year-old son, Owen, died in a commercial rafting accident on Utah’s Green River: He decided to write about it, “in expiation, in homage, in remembrance.” The resulting book, Disaster Falls, is an excruciating read—and an invaluable emotional resource.

Few of us, fortunately, experience a loss comparable to that of Gerson and his wife, Alison, and surviving son, Julian. But as Gerson makes clear, no one wakes up in the morning anticipating disaster. Seemingly inconsequential decisions can have far-reaching ramifications, sometimes resulting in death. So it was with Owen, who was in a small craft known as a ducky with his father when it flipped.

The decision to take an 8-year-old through Class III rapids can and undoubtedly will be debated by parents who read Disaster Falls, but what of the countless other decisions we make? What constitutes crossing the line when it comes to protecting our children or letting them stretch their world? Or is there not really a line but a kaleidoscope of random, inexplicable occurrences?

Gerson, a cultural historian and professor of French studies at New York University, writes unflinchingly of the accident, its immediate aftermath and its effect on him and his family. If you wonder how couples stay together—or break apart—after a devastating loss, his insights are illuminating. And how should you respond to a family that’s going through such a tragedy? Gerson’s reactions to well-meaning attempts at connection might surprise you.

Not so surprisingly, a legal battle emerges toward the end of the book, bringing with it some of Gerson’s most powerful writing. For the Gersons, as with all families, the journey continues along life’s never-ending river.

 

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

 
BAM Customer Reviews