I picked up Disaster Falls on Netgalley this past January. You can see my review below as well as some information about the author.
On a day like any other, on a rafting trip down Utah’s Green River, Stéphane Gerson’s eight-year-old son, Owen, drowned in a spot known as Disaster Falls. That same night, as darkness fell, Stéphane huddled in a tent with his wife, Alison, and their older son, Julian, trying to understand what seemed inconceivable. “It’s just the three of us now,” Alison said over the sounds of a light rain and, nearby, the rushing river. “We cannot do it alone. We have to stick together.”
Disaster Falls chronicles the aftermath of that day and their shared determination to stay true to Alison’s resolution. Gerson captures the different ways of grieving that threatened to isolate each of them in their post-Owen worlds and then, with beautiful specificity, shows how he and Alison preserved and reconfigured their marriage from within. Blending family history (including the “good death” of his father, which offers a very different perspective on mortality) and the natural history of the river, he provides an expansive, unflinching meditation on loss, our responsibilities toward our children, and the stories we tell ourselves in the wake of traumatic events.
Slowly, inexorably, Gerson writes his way back to Owen, straight to the singularity that cleaved his life into before and after, creating a portrait of grief iridescent in its fullness, and unexpectedly consoling.
Disaster Falls is a tragic story about loss, grieving, and healing. It’s a parent’s worst nightmare.
I found myself crying throughout the book and the story felt so real to me. Everything they endured can be felt as the words feel as though they’re just pouring out of him. As a parent, I think the emotions are so strong because you put yourself in their shoes, and glimpse the agony and terror they live with.
I almost wished the story was told in chronological order, but it makes sense in the end.
Thanks to Netgalley and the author for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Stéphane Gerson is a cultural historian of modern France and a Professor of French Studies at NYU. He has won several awards, including the Jacques Barzun Prize in Cultural History and the Laurence Wylie Prize in French Cultural Studies. Gerson lives in Manhattan and Woodstock, NY, with his family.
You can find Stéphane Gerson at: