It was a mild winter afternoon when I sat down to read Rosalie Lightning. My wife was going to take a nap while our two year old daughter also napped. She asked what I was going to do while she napped and my response was “probably some laundry, maybe the dishes, but I’m going to read this graphic memoir about a guy who loses his two year old daughter”. Her response was to ask why in the hell would I want to read that. I sat there for a minute before responding. When I finally did I said: because if Tom Hart is brave enough to write this story, I should be brave enough to read it. At the time that sentence encapsulated how I felt, but by the time I would finish the memoir, the feeling would resonate much too closely to my own heart.
What Rosalie Lightning means to do is the tell the story of how Tom and his partner Leela came to lose their only child. And while the memoir does focus on how Rosalie came to pass, Hart makes sure to focus on the most important aspect of the story which is preserving the memory of his daughter. Sometimes stories like this tend to dwell on the morbid details of how something so horrific came to be, but Hart manages to avoid this. Instead Rosalie is filled with Tom and Leela’s life post-Rosalie and how they deal with her passing and the effects it has on their own selves.
Hart tells the story of their lives with Rosalie, how they narrowly escaped New York for the artistic Gainesville, Florida. How they struggled for a time to sell the apartment that once brought them joy but then only brought them frustration. They thought Florida would surely be better for them, but then they lost Rosalie. What do you do when you lose a child? Hart asks. He answers this question several times, in several different ways, even though it’s a question that only could be answered by those who have lost a child. When something like this happens to someone close to you all you can mutter is “I could never imagine” and you can’t. You just cannot. Rosalie Lightning is one of the most difficult books I’ve ever read not only because I have a young daughter in similar age to Rosalie at the time of her passing, but because so much grief went into putting it on paper that it’s hard to imagine the difficulty that Hart went through doing so. It’s a perfect example of how grief displays itself differently for every individual. Never before have I felt both relief and grief when finishing a book. You want the last page to come so badly, but also not because knowing when that happens that Rosalie’s story will come to a close. Yes.
Rating: 5 out of 5 – Tom Hart reaches literary perfection with a truly deserving tribute to his daughter.
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