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Mourning in America

Death's Door:
Modern Dying and the Ways We Grieve
by Sandra M. Gilbert

Death's Door begins with a paradox: "The days that really live in our public memories aren't birthdays, they're death days. These are the days we're talking about when we say Where were you when.?"

Sandra M. Gilbert, prominent critic, poet, and memoirist explores our relationship to death through literature, history, poetry, and societal practices. Death and the way Western tradition and American culture deal with it has occupied a great deal of Gilbert's thinking during the last decade. In 1991, her husband, a professor of English at UC Davis, died as a result of a medical error following surgery. The loss of her husband was devastating for Gilbert, as was the difficulty of a malpractice suit which followed.

Gilbert talks about other people's comments after her husband's death, "there were doctors who would say, 'Mistakes are inevitable. It's no one's fault.'" More troubling were the people who would want to know what she had done wrong.

Death's Door is a wide-ranging volume described as genre-busting-bringing together elements of memoir, personal meditation, literary criticism and cultural commentary. All through Death's Door, Gilbert returns again and again to her own loss as she surveys Western attitudes toward death.

Gilbert writes with a mastery of language-entertaining and inspiring her readers with an insightful and deeply humane content. This book explores, embraces, and dissects death, leaving readers with a clear understanding of grief. Death's Door is a book for anyone wanting to examine modern ways of dying, mourning, and memorializing that have evolved in the course of the last century.

W.W. Norton & Company
$29.95 (hardcover)