Guesswork: A Reckoning with Loss by Martha Cooley
“[A] splendid and subtle memoir in essays”—The New York Times Book Review
“In her new memoir-in-essays, Guesswork, Martha Cooley explores the issues of loss and grief. Using as lenses Italy, the deaths of friends, and the nature of responsibility and love toward her aging parents, she has written a lovely, thoughtful book, full of wisdom and caritas.” —Roxana Robinson, author of Sparta
"Through evocative imagery and invocations of the poetry of Eliot, Dickinson and Whitman, she reminds us that art can bring solace and clarity to the greatest pain." —Wall Street Journal
Having lost eight friends in ten years, Cooley retreats to a tiny medieval village in Italy with her husband to recover from la strage, or “the massacre.” There, in this sundrenched paradise where bumblebees nest in the ancient cemetery and stray cats curl up on her bed, she examines what we all must confront one day, mortality. How do we grieve? How do we go on drinking our morning coffee, loving our life partners, stumbling though a world of such confusing, exquisite beauty?
Linking the essays is Cooley’s escalating understanding of another, more painful loss on the way, that of her ailing mother back in the States. Blind since Cooley’s childhood, her mother relies on dry wit to ward off pity. There seems no way for the two of them to discuss her impending death. But somehow, by the end, Cooley finds the words—each one graceful and wrenching.
Part memoir, part loving goodbye to an unconventional parent, Guesswork transforms a year in a pastoral hill town into a fierce examination of life, love, death, and, ultimately, release.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Martha Cooley is the author of the national bestseller The Archivist and ThirtyThree Swoons. The Archivist was a New York Times Notable Book and a New and Noteworthy paperback. Cooley is currently a contributing editor at A Public Space. Her cotranslations of Italian fiction and poetry include Antonio Tabucchi’s story collection Time Ages in a Hurry. A professor of English at Adelphi University, Cooley divides her time between Queens, New York, and Castiglione del Terziere, Italy. Her American cat, Zora, is named after one of the cities in Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, and their Italian cat, Tristana, is named after the medieval knight.