The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs [in Library Journal]
Nina Riggs died February 26, 2017. Cassandra Campbell gently narrates most of the work, until Kirby Heyborne takes over to read the afterword by Riggs’s husband, John, and shatters your heart. For a book about fatal diseases – Riggs was diagnosed at 37 with breast cancer; her mother with multiple myeloma, from which she died just months before her daughter – this memoir is bright with joy, laughter, and enveloping love.
The mother of two young sons and wife to John, whom she met in a graveyard joking about Kant and Kierkegaard during a college summer job, Riggs never loses sight of what inspires and nurtures her, even as her “days are filled with imagining how to wind things down.” Riggs finds calming balm in the writings of her great-great-great-grandfather Ralph Waldo Emerson, twinned with 16th-century philosopher Michel de Montaigne’s meditations. Her ruminations about her diagnosis, treatments, and losses are unblinkingly honest with pain and frustration, but grace and courage somehow prevail.
Verdict: Readers who were moved by Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air, Will Schwalbe’s The End of Your Life Book Club, or Jeffrey Zaslow’s The Last Lecture will find exquisite solace in this Bright Hour.