Disaster Falls is a powerful account of a life cleaved in two—raw, truthful, and unexpectedly consoling.
A haunting chronicle of what endures when the world we know is swept away
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 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. At the heart of the book is an unflinching portrait of a marriage tested. Husband and wife grieve in radically different ways that threaten to isolate each of them in their post-Owen worlds. (“He feels so far,” Stéphane says when Alison shows him a selfie Owen had taken. “He feels so close,” she says.) With beautiful specificity, Stéphane shows how they resist that isolation and reconfigure their marriage from within.
As Stéphane navigates his grief, the memoir expands to explore how society reacts to the death of a child. He depicts the “good death” of his father, which reveals an altogther different perspective on mortality. He excavates the history of the Green River—rife with hazards not mentioned in the rafting company’s brochures. He explores how stories can both memorialize and obscure a person’s life—and how they can rescue us.
Disaster Falls is a powerful account of a life cleaved in two—raw, truthful, and unexpectedly consoling.
Advance Galley Reviews
What a wonderful memoir! So real and raw. I had no idea it was a nonfiction book until after it was over. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read this.
Disaster Falls is a deeply touching memoir. The author bravely shares his story of his family's loss and how they learned to navigate through their new lives without their son. His story resonates with real emotion to every parent who has ever wondered, "what would I do? Who would I become if my worst nightmare came true?"
I was unaware that this was non-fiction until I finished the book - and I think that immensely impacts the way I think about it. The story that is told is painful enough on its own and I think that's part of the reason it took me so long to read it. I would read 10 or so pages at a time and would then stop to do other things which in hindsight probably did make this book less saddening. I've always thought the saddest thing is when a parent outlives a child (I've also read that in a book somewhere - a character remarks upon that) and I don't know if writing this book gave the author some catharsis or not. I sure hope it does though. Because of the touchy nature of the subject matter, I'm not sure if I would recommend everyone read it. I really feel for this family and I think it's brave for the author to revisit memories and have to spill it onto paper, but that personal touch while yes making this much more authentic also makes it a difficult read.
Thank you to First to Read for the chance to read an e-ARC of this book in exchange for a review. I fear I have failed you, as I cannot finish this book in my current emotional state. In the thrall of the Winter Blues, this piece while eloquent and beautifully written, is more than I can take. I will get into that later, but for now... the summary.
This book circles around the event that broke his family's heart- the death of his son, Owen. Drowning on a rafting trip in a place called Disaster Falls, the eight year old's life was cut short leaving a hole in the small family. Gerson catalogs the time after that and how he, his wife and his other son coped. Things they felt, things friends said, how they greave, and perhaps how they heal.
I was very interested in this book, and have read the like before. At the moment, though, I have to throw in the towel. This is a DNF not because it is poorly written but because I cannot afford to give myself over to that pain just yet. It was to vivid, too engulfing. I felt like I was trying to swim through a whirlpool of pain and I kept having to put the book down. After sixty pages, I feel like we have gotten no where. They talk, remember Owen. There are some lovely anecdotes that I quite liked. It was very real reactions to the loss of a son, and yet it hurt me that often I felt Julian was left behind to grieve for his brother on his own. There is in fact a part where he admits that his parents didn't care what he ate for days.... basically his parents, in their pain, forgot to take care of their son. I hope this changes through the book, but I can only critique the beginning. I kept having to put the book down, my chest hurting too much to allow for any more pain. My heart goes out to this family.... I cannot even... well, as you so eloquently showed, there are no words for a grieving parent.
Again, I do want to return to this book later, when I am feeling more fresh and sunny myself. Right now, I can't, and I am so sorry.
The book comes out 1-24-2017. Please let me know what you think.
It is incredibly hard to say you love a book like this, because the content is hard to love. Still, it resonates with me as a Mom to two boys.
Death isn't a mystery to me. I've witnessed a lot of death - starting with the death of my Dad when I was 4 years old. Still, witnessing the death of a father is expected - maybe not that soon, but while death is inevitable, there's an order. Children bury parents. Parents just aren't supposed to bury children.
I won't lie, there were parts that made me uncomfortable - mainly because I put myself in their shoes and my breath was taken away thinking about it. My son is 8 - same age as Owen. Furthermore, he was born in 2008. My other son is the youngest of two - like Owen.
I can agree that this book was a little tricky to get into - mainly because it's written in a bit of a disjointed way. But if you stick with it, you can also see the point in that. Grief is different for everyone for sure, but it is often disjointed - we distance ourselves at first until we feel we're in a place to closer examine the pieces.
In the end, I admire this family so much. That sounds fake and weak and just plain not good enough, but while I do wish their story had a different ending, I am so glad they chose to share their (and Owen's) story.
Honestly, I have tried to read this book several times and just can't get into it.
DISASTER FALLS is a memoir that deals with the author’s personal experiences with loss and grief. Told with such honesty, you’re transported into the author’s shoes as he deals with the guilt, the anger, and his needs to help him deal with a tragedy. Definitely an eye-opening read for those who’ve been fortunate enough not to experience such sadness. My thanks to First to Read for the advance reader copy…
4-Stars - Disaster Falls is a non-fiction memoir. Gerson's beautifully written prose gives a realistic view into the deep grieving process when a family loses a child to death. It is raw, it is overpowering, it is heart breaking. Definitely a book that people will respect, but also one that readers should take care before selecting. It was a very difficult book to read, and one in which I often felt as an eavesdropper to/interloper in this family's deepest pain. My greatest sympathy to the Gerson family on their loss of Owen.
Thanks to First-to-Read and Penguin Books for allowing me to read an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
"Disaster Falls" is an introspective and heart-breaking walk through a father's grief over the tragic death of youngest son. With genuine detail, Stephane Gerson works through paralyzing sadness, grief, guilt, and anger all the while realizing that life continues to move on regardless of his pain. The reader is expertly led through the narrative of the tragic drowning accident and its aftermath on the various members of the family. This is not an easy book to read but it is honest, open, and a helpful support for anyone else suffering through anything similar.
To be honest at about 1/3 of the way through this book I had to stop because I was so bored. I honestly did not care about anything in the book nor do I wish to try to reread it.
I received a free ARC e-reader copy of this book from the Random House's First to Read program.
This book took me a lot longer than usual to read because it's one of the heaviest books I've ever read.
Not from it's physical weight as I read it on my e-reader, but because it is filled to the brim with grief. I don't think I would've taken this book home if I read the cover at the library because it's a memoir by a father about losing his 8 year old son while on a rafting trip. I currently have a daughter the same age and I had to read this book in small pieces while feeling overwhelmed by the feelings swirling out of it's pages. I cried often for the first 75% of the book. The last section deals with the author's father who has cancer and his death, which is an entirely different beast losing someone who has had a long and full life. Losing his father, just 3 years after losing his son, helped Stephane deal more with losing his son.
The book is successful in conveying the grief and confusion around losing a child. The author's recounting of the events around the accident and his search for meaning, for other people in history who have lost children and how they have dealt with it. The author searches for information about where his son died and how the name of the area, Disaster Falls, should've served as a warning.
I can't say I enjoyed this book because of the subject matter, but I kept returning to it, to share in the human experience of pain and family.
Gerson and his family have been through the emotional ringer with regard to the titular location's impact on their lives through the heartbreaking loss of a family member, and penning this book had to provide a much needed catharsis. While I certainly wouldn't classify this book as enjoyable, Gershon lets readers in on the pain that he experienced both in the immediate aftermath and for years afterward, providing an intimate look at the lingering effects of grief. A more intriguing approach would have brought wife Alison and son Julian into the fold to provide their points of view and different methods to heal afterward in greater detail instead of merely touching on them, resulting in the book feeling more complete and taking fewer tangents to fill the pages.
I was very eager to read this book. Sadly despite all efforts and reading the download instructions, making sure I had ADE and it was authorized. I can not seen to download my copy. I tried on my laptop on my phone. All I keep getting is "download failed" I would still love to read this book as a mother who has lost a child I feel it would speak to me.
Any suggestion, advice or ideas on what has or is going wrong would be greatly appreciated.
Personal classification: 4/5 stars
"This kind of silence becomes possible when one no longer expects to understand the suffering or avert the violence of the world.”
The grief experience is tragic, especially when you’re grieving your child, the author walks us through this experience, and it is written so well that is almost addicting.
This is an emotional read that Stephane Gerson portraits so well, it is well worth it. A great memoir that can be confused as fiction! I highly recommend
I received this book in advance from First to Read. It is a harrowing review of the grief experienced by the author when his child dies. It is written from his perspective within the context of the family that remains. I found it to be well written and covers the range of grief as it affects the individual. It is very emotionally taxing and I could only read a few chapters at a time. What makes this book so poignant is that this is a subject that is rarely discussed and certainly not in depth as this one is. I applaud the author's willingness to be frank about the accident and its aftermath. A painful endeavor but well worth the time and effort.