Jackson-based writer Alexandra Fuller has released a new memoir that strives to reckon with her grief at the deaths of both her father and her son in close succession.
The book picks up soon after her father’s death in a hospital in Budapest. From there, Fuller traveled back to Zambia with her grieving mother to bury him. Fuller said her British-Zambian father was the lynchpin of her family, and after his death her family fell apart.
Fuller said two-thirds of the way through writing the book, her son died, and she was forced to face a hard truth.
“I think the death of a parent forces you to be an adult, if you haven’t become one already, which is to say, it stops with you, the responsibility is yours,” said Fuller. “But if your son dies and becomes a precocious ancestor, then I think you’re called upon to become an elder. And that is a different set of instructions, that is, to carry no bitterness.”
Fuller said before her son’s death she felt split about where she belonged: in southern Africa where she grew up or in the U.S. But now that her son is buried in Wyoming, she said she knows this is where she belongs.
“Going through the death of a child, and lying with his body, cremating his body, interring his ashes, those things are a physical attachment to Earth. I can put my hand on the dirt where he is buried. That is a different feeling,” she said.
The book is called Travel Light, Move Fast and was published by Penguin Press.
You can hear the complete interview with Fuller on what’s she’s learned about coping with grief on the next Open Spaces January 10.
Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Melodie Edwards, at email@example.com.