Our Book of the Month pick for August is possibly one of the most life-affirming books you’re likely to read. Penned by the great-great-great granddaughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nina Riggs, The Bright Hour is a luminous and contemplative memoir about living with breast cancer. Riggs was diagnosed in January 2015 and it metastasised later that year, just months after her mother had died from the same disease. In The Bright Hour, she writes about what it is like to live with ‘death in the room’ – and it’s every bit as wise, poignant, and heartbreaking as you’d imagine.
It’s also witty, warm, and contemplative. Riggs talks about parenting, love, pain, and life in general with such optimism and joy that it’s impossible not to be sucked in. She tells her story through a series of absurd, often hilarious vignettes, drawn from a life that has ‘no real future or arc left to it, yet it still goes on as if it does.’ Riggs is every bit as much a writer as her ancestor was; known primarily for her poetry, the prose in The Bright Hour is simply stunning, offering glimpses into a writer’s life that will charm anyone who has ever enjoyed reading a story. Here, life is offset by the presence of death – it is unflinching and raw, but most of all it is a celebration of life and of finding comfort in the day-to-day.
Nina Riggs sadly died in February this year, making The Bright Hour all the more heart-wrenching. It is being compared to When Breath Becomes Air, the bestselling 2016 memoir by dying surgeon Paul Kalanithi. Something of a sensation when it was published, the book pulled in praise from major media outlets across the globe. Much like When Breath Becomes Air, The Bright Hour is so incredibly universal in subject matter that the readership potential is immense; it spans ages, genders, sexualities, race – it is, essentially, a book for everyone as it deals with one of the most human themes of them all: living and dying.
The Bright Hour has already garnered some fantastic praise:
“The Bright Hour is a stunning work, a heart-rending meditation on life – not just how to appreciate it while you’re living it, but how to embrace its end, too. It is this year’s When Breath Becomes Air.” – The Washington Post
“A luminous, heartbreaking symphony of wit, wisdom, pain, parenting, and perseverance against insurmountable odds.” – Kirkus, Starred Review
“Deeply affecting…a simultaneously heartbreaking and funny account of living with loss and the specter of death. As [Riggs] lyrically, unflinchingly details her reality, she finds beauty and truth that comfort even amid the crushing sadness.” – People
“Riggs reminds us that we are all in this world until we leave it; the gallows humor surrounding her mother’s funeral will make readers howl guiltily but appreciatively… Everyone should read this beautifully crafted book as it imbues life and loved ones with a particularly transcendent glow.” – Library Journal
We can expect more of the same in the UK when The Bright Hour hits shelves this August. An unlikely summer read, perhaps, but one that is sure to completely blow away UK readers when they get hold of a copy.
The Bright Hour is published by Text Publishing on 3rd August 2017 (£12.99, Paperback, 9781911231134)