One of the most difficult things to write about is the death of a loved one and how it completely changes you, or at least most parts of you. Death, being the common factor to our lives, since we have all lost someone special and dear to it, is almost something that doesn’t let go. The loss is felt at various times and places and to document that to me is a work of remarkable restraint and courage. “The Guardians” by Sarah Manguso is one such book. After reading, “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion, I thought I was done reading about loss and grief, however guess I wasn’t.
“The Guardians” by Sarah Manguso, as the title also suggests is an elegy for a friend. Sarah grieves for a best friend through this book. Her friend, Harris died on the 23rd of July 2008 under the wheels of a train. The Guardians is a heartfelt meditation on friendship and grief. It is about love and how it changes the world of a person, when the other is not around. At the same time, the book is not sentimental or wallowing in self-pity. It is written the way Sarah feels it. The book is about Sarah trying to make sense of death and how it changed her life and the way she thought to some extent.
I could relate a lot to the book, maybe because like I said, we have all lost that special someone, so it is only fair that the reader would be able to relate to a book of this nature. The writing is sparse, extending only at one hundred and twenty eight pages and yet Manguso manages to say what she has to. She shows some parts and aspects of Harris’s life and covers some, rightly so, given the book could get either very personal or very distant. She speaks of mourning and the process of grief in most endearing ways: “I want to set aside every expectation of how I should feel or act given that my friend had a bad death, and try to explain what has actually happened to me” she states most eloquently. Grief to her cannot be measured at all and that can be seen throughout the book.
The book is deeply personal and when you read something this personal, a part of you cannot think, it can only feel and the other wants to think and connect everything that is read. For me the book was difficult in parts. I choked at some and at other times I closed the book, and revisited it after some time. Like they say, grief is way too personal. One’s relation to it in whatever form is also very personal and this book stands out to unite people in grief, at a very superficial level, but nonetheless it binds through the situation and words and feelings. I for one cannot imagine what would happen to me if my best friend were to die. This book is a short treatise on loss, love and friendship. Something that I will not recommend you miss.