Almost a year ago, there were a series of terrorist attacks on public spaces in Paris. Of the nearly 200 souls who were killed, 90 were at a rock concert at the Bataclan Theatre.
One of those 90 was Hélène Muyal, who was survived by her husband Antoine Leiris and their 17-month-old son Melvil.
Leiris' open letter to the terrorists (posted on Facebook), in which he declares that he will not give the terrorists the gift of hating them, went viral and was covered by news media around the world.
In this slim volume, Leiris shares their story, beginning with the evening of the attacks as he waited anxiously at home to hear from his wife. He describes the painful process of going to the morgue to identify the body, and the difficulty of explaining to Melvil why his mother would not be coming home.
While parts of the grieving process are universal, there is also the deeply personal aspect of grief unique to every individual. Most readers can easily identify with the former, though may struggle with the almost stream-of-consciousness expression of his own devastation.
The convictions Leiris expresses here are important ones, especially in these days of animosity and antagonism. Reading this book may not make us all emulate him, but a portal to tolerance may be cracked open.
FTC Full Disclosure: Many thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book.