Review: What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons

What We Lose is a fragmented meditation on grief and loss. Revolving around the loss of a mother in small sections of intense prose, it powerfully evokes the far-reaching effects of a major bereavement in a beautifully written debut novel. Using a first person narrator interspersed with excerpts from blog posts, photographs, biographies, Clemmons carefully stitches together many disparate elements into one whole.

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Fiction told in fragments is something I’ve been drawn to over the past couple of  years, and I’ve found multiple favourites in this style. CoveDept. of Speculation, Another Brooklyn are incredibly different to each other, each making a unique use of short sections and prose which alludes to a lot without feeling the need to explain minutia.

Unfortunately I don’t think this book will be joining those ones on my list of favourites, although I did really enjoy it. There were moments where I felt the pace dropped and I was waiting for the story itself to get back on track, followed by sections which packed a real punch. As a reading experience I found it a little uneven. While I loved the use of other texts and images, they weren’t always clearly signposted – I spent a certain amount of time figuring out which passage was being referred to by a ‘This passage is from’ – I wasn’t sure whether it meant the section I’d just read or the section I was about to read. At other times, a nugget of information dropped which seemed to hint at things to come lead nowhere. Confusion really interrupts a reading experience.

Despite these things, I will definitely be reading any further novels by the author. This book was not one I loved as a whole, but there are sections which I fell in love with for their power. Given it was a fairly quick read, I would certainly recommend it for the benefit of those parts.

Book Only

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