I can’t mince words here. Naja Marie Aidt’s poetic-memoir When Death Takes Something from You Give it Back: Carl’s Book is heavy. In it, she explores grief and love relating to her then-25 year-old son’s death in 2015.
(For the accompanying vlog, click here!)
Right off the bat, I’m going to say that if death is a difficult topic for you, this won’t be an easy book. It’s raw and emotional, and even the book’s format reflects that slightly sporadic way the brain handles death, which does make the book very powerful and moving over all. That said, as the saying goes, “misery loves company,” so if you’ve recently experienced a loss, Aidt’s experiences might help you through your own grief.
I did really enjoy the book, even if it was a bit of a tough read. Having experienced a somewhat similar trauma myself, I felt that I could empathize with what Aidt and her family were feeling. Her description is vivid, and I liked how she included excerpts from other poets, authors, and philosophers–I felt that this inclusion helped to make sense of her son’s death, but more generally, it gives the readers alternative perspectives on death as well.
Moreover, while my more curious side wanted to know what happened to her son Carl immediately, I appreciated the fact that Aidt only gave that specific information in bits and pieces. Instead, she broke up the narrative of his passing with anecdotes from his life, bits of poetry and messages between them, her own memories of her emotions, bits of her journal entries. All these elements helped to make Carl seem more real to the reader, which then made the knowledge of how he died that much more jarring when you finally do read it. Additionally, from including these other aspects, as a reader, you can start to see just how much love there is around a person–how much they may touch others’ lives–that too, I think is really powerful and in a way softens the blow that comes from death, instead giving a shimmer of hope.
Overall, When Death Takes Something from You Give it Back: Carl’s Book was well written and moving. It’s a short book, but since it does take some emotional energy to get through, it isn’t necessarily a super quick read. I loved how vulnerable Aidt was in her writing and think that it, in a way, shows that grief is okay, and more generally, that it’s part of life but that we move on. So, I definitely recommend this memoir, but I do so with the alert that it may be a little difficult to read due to the subject matter.
That’s all I’ve got for now! Feel free to leave me a recommendation–I’ve already got a lineup of books started, but I’ll try to fit in any requests ASAP! Look out for my post next week on Marc Favreau’s Spies: The Secret Showdown Between America and Russia.