Monday, September 30, 2013

The Silence in the Empty House

In The Silence in an Empty House, Maria Mazziotti Gillan comes to the limit of human experience, stares death in the face, and struggles to keep moving. These moments she faces and speaks of so clearly are unavoidable, and the long illness and death of her husband, Dennis, is her personal version of the fundamental struggle we all face.

The Silence in an Empty House speaks of forgiveness, guilt and grace. With courage and a stubborn refusal to look away from the terrors that surround her on so many levels, Gillan documents the parallels between our own struggles with mortality and the struggles being played out on the world stage today. From wars to climate change to the death of whole species to her own struggles with the deaths of her husband, family and friends, she makes each of these battles the reader's own, and gives order and meaning to those fundamental things that otherwise threaten to capsize us.

In The Silence in an Empty House, Maria Mazziotti Gillan chronicles a long marriage—love triumphing class, geographical moves, fondue parties, orange shag carpets and ultimately wheelchairs, nurse's aides, and cold compresses. This is a book of easy and gentle humor regarding the first sparks of true love and the hard truths about what it is truly like to be a caregiver at the end of a spouse's life, what it is like for a spouse to feel like "a burden," and, finally, what it feels like to be a widow. Maria Mazziotti Gillan's speaker includes not just personal and familial suffering but the suffering of the planet, its people and wildlife. This is a voice that is graceful and purposeful, elegant and humane.

—Denise Duhamel

Cover Art:  INTERIOR WITH BALCONY
©2006  by Linda Hillringhouse


These are poems many people will relate to, perhaps, because Maria Gillan is amazingly honest about her reactions to the long trauma of her beloved husband disappearing into Parkinson's disease, perhaps, because this is the sort of anguish many of us in tight partnerships most fear. Gillan takes us on a journey from young love and marriage through the long slow decline of her husband, through his death, and slowly out the other side into survivor's guilt and, finally, the acceptance of her continued life and vitality.

—Marge Piercy