From the harrowing drowning of his eight year old son on a family rafting vacation, Gerson has crafted an elegiac memoir. Gerson plunges into unplumbed personal and family recesses, to surface with the sense of grief yielding, ever so slowly, to a wiser, richer life. — Mike Hare
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, Stephane Gerson's eight-year-old son, Owen, drowned in a spot known as Disaster Falls. That night, as darkness fell, Stephane 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," Stephane says when Alison shows him a selfie Owen had taken. "He feels so close," she says.) With beautiful specificity, Stephane shows how they resist that isolation and reconfigure their marriage from within.
As Stephane 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.
About the Author
Stephane Gerson is a cultural historian and a professor of French studies at New York University. He has won several awards, including the Jacques Barzun Prize in Cultural History and the Laurence Wylie Prize in French Cultural Studies. He lives in Manhattan and Woodstock, New York, with his family. Visit his website at DisasterFalls.com.