An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination

by Elizabeth McCracken

"This is the happiest story in the world with the saddest ending," writes Elizabeth McCracken in her powerful, inspiring memoir.

A prize-winning, successful novelist in her 30s, McCracken was happy to be an itinerant writer and self-proclaimed spinster.

And if you have ever experienced loss or love someone who has, the company of this remarkable book will help you go on.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Autobiography
  • Rating: 4.14
  • Pages: 186
  • Publish Date: September 10th 2008 by Little Brown and Company
  • Isbn10: 0316027677
  • Isbn13: 9780316027670

What People Think about "An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination"

Whether she didnt want to kick up a fuss over nothing in a dramatic American style, or whether something was lost in translation in the conversation with the French midwife, McCracken left it at that. McCracken and her husband now have two children, but there is no replacing Pudding. The books concluding lines are amongst the most beautiful I have ever read: Its a happy life, but someone is missing. Its a happy life, and someone is missing.

(I didn't want to freak myself out) Then, when I lost my baby 4 days before his due date, it became an urgency to get my hands on it as if I could somehow procure the answers to my own situation by simply reading a book. It is also one of the happiest books I've ever read about losing a baby. This is a must-read for anybody who has lost a baby or for anybody that wishes to better understand someone that has.

What is ironic is that I had ordered this book off of Amazon, and it was delivered (and I started reading it) the day before the anniversary of my son's birth/death. But, for me, good to see my own emotions in writing - knowing I'm not alone in the way I felt and still feel.

A baby." McCracken married her British husband in her late thirties and was thrilled to be living together in Bordeaux and pregnant with their first child (nicknamed Pudding.) Amidst the knocking on wood, the name games, and the well-wishes of friends and strangers, something goes very wrong and Pudding dies before birth.

Where Didion is most essentially writing about her own death--at least, the end of her family and context and relevance and time--McCracken is talking about trauma, a personal shame. Which probably explains another thing that surprised me about this book: how similar McCracken's ordeal was to what I went through when I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer last year, at age 22. I had the same feeling when I was diagnosed: your life path seems to diverge--you are no longer like other young women--and while you don't resent other people for living while you are suffering, they become distant from you: you are not someone who can be comforted by statistics (as McCracken says) when you've come down on the wrong side of such amazing odds. The most moving moment in the book is when McCracken finds out her baby has no heartbeat, and she thinks, "people are going to be mad at me." She plays this moment brilliantly, saving it for last--the book is structured so that we start with the aftermath of the loss of the baby, then read about her second pregnancy, and finally, see the moment at which she delivers the first--so that we understand that her desperation and sadness are emotions she holds close to her chest; at that point, we're not strangers she's shrieking her sorrow at in a bloody white Victorian nightgown and matted hair (to borrow her image). (As McCracken points out, we usually seem to reserve our self-pity for moments when we're crying our eyes out over a man or some silly thing.) It's guilt for what you are putting your family through: the first thing I thought when the doctor told me there were cancer cells in my tumor was, I do not want this for my sister--my sister will not be defined as The Girl Whose Sister Died Young of Cancer. (I could hear it: "Oh, it's so sad, her sister died of cancer ten years ago." I didn't feel comfortable around her until I found out that the cancer wasn't going to kill me.) The other thing you are ashamed of is your basic innate physical inability to do what other women do. People are almost afraid to touch you when you go through some sort of statistically extraordinary trauma, as if you're contagious and ready to pounce, without realizing that almost anything they say is the right thing to say as long as they say it--and mean it (you can tell, and I can tell, and Elizabeth McCracken can definitely tell). is about walking inside the closet of grief and staying there for a long time, and losing yourself in sadness, and then coming back to yourself and knowing you are an entirely new person who will "never be a woman whose first child did not die" or never be a woman without cancer. I think it is a love letter to other young women going through what she has gone through. This is a book that had to be written, for the growing number of young women going through cancer--because no, it is NOTHING like your grandmother dying of cancer at 87--and for mothers going through the loss of a young child.

Her pain is real and palpable, and one that I hope I never experience.

As much time with his body as I could have, as many pictures as we could take, the plaster cast of his hand and foot. He touched so many lives. I cannot imagine having nothing of him but memories that will fade in time and a book that I've written. I'm not saying her choices were wrong.

I too had lost a baby, three, in fact, and when McCracken called my wish for pictures a "fetish" and seemed to suggest I was wrong or strange for wanting footprints and memory boxes and any sort of artifact, I just couldn't read on. I'm glad I did, as once I was past that hurt, I could see McCracken had written a clear-eyed memoir, used her beautiful talent with words to paint a picture of her loss on her terms.

I'm having a hard time writing this review, perhaps because the events in the book, both the awful and wonderful ones, feel too big to summarize or comment on.

Elizabeth McCracken (born 1966) is an American author.