Brand : Joelle Renstrom

Closing the Book: Travels in Life, Loss, and Literature



Sap |

A book many might relate to

This book was a great read. the theme of moving past a disorienting loss really resonated with me, and i think that this story holds additional meaning for any reader who has experienced a landmark tragedy that has divided life into "before" and "after." i enjoyed how joelle renstrom narrated her reflections - i could imagine this person stepping outside of herself, watching her life fall apart and also watching herself make the journey (literally and figuratively) to construct another life. many times i related to her questioning and searching so much that the conversation she was having with herself turned into a conversation with myself in my head. reading this book was something like processing my own baggage through listening to the story of a friend; like learning and growing from the lessons of someone else's tragedy. i don't do it justice here - better to read it yourself.

S. r. ramsdell |

Closing doors is significant literature

Joelle renstrom’s book closing the door is a series of conjoined essays, but it is much more than that. it is a memoir, a travel journal, a glimpse at the growing philosophy of a young woman. most of all, perhaps, it is an archetypal quest. as renstrom seeks answers about her father’s untimely death and her life without him, she looks in europe, in the classroom, and in literature. the comforting part about her forays into questioning various works of science fiction is that renstrom informs the reader about each novel, so no one can become lost, even with unfamiliar books. renstrom not only has a way with words, she also has a way with thoughts which develop and solidify throughout the book. her heart and mind “turn cartwheels” as she grasps essential elements of life and death. almost anyone who has experienced the death of a most loved person can understand the dizzying spin she takes us on as she, and we, come to understand a little more about life and mortality. her clear honesty vibrates throughout her prose, such as when she discusses having to rebuild her life. “there’s a lesson in the bulldozer. it doesn’t look at the mess [of 9/11] and think this will never be fixed. . . .it keeps going. there’s nothing wrong with rebuilding forever. it’s an apt metaphor for life. actually, it’s not a metaphor at all” (79). other great metaphors weave their way among the essays to help us understand renstrom’s questioning, newfound understanding, and questioning once more. one important message becomes clear: “one can choose to want to be hopeful despite the knowledge that one’s hope probably won’t be realized. this is free will. this is . . . bravery.” renstrom may be “closing the book,” but her thoughts and images will keep opening doors for readers’ awareness of literature and their own hearts.

Sonya huber |

Highly recommended!

This book wrestles with a delightful and necessary weight: how heavy is love, and how do choices and luck affect our trajectory and our options? the essays are woven around the loss of the author's father, but the relationship with her father is multifaceted, both an emotional and a searching intellectual one. as renstrom traces all of her questions--about politics, physics, fate, travel, and life--her father is visible in the underpinnings. and this made the book particularly special to me: rather than just about grief, that arid place, it was about her father, a living breathing man who dies but remains as alive in these pages as the narrator. this book also succeeds at truly being both a memoir and an essay collection, so it's fascinating from a structural point of view.