Cover Image: The Light Streamed Beneath It

The Light Streamed Beneath It

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Member Reviews

Describing a memoir about grief as a joy to read sounds strange, but that’s how I feel about The Light Streamed Beneath It by Shawn Hitchins. The subtitle, A Memoir of Grief and Celebration, indicates what to expect, so maybe “a joy to read” isn’t so strange a description after all. 

In the space of five months, Shawn loses two men he loved. Matt, Shawn’s former common-law husband, dies following an accident. David, Shawn’s former boyfriend, dies as a result of suicide. 

Yes, The Light Streamed Beneath It is about grief. But it is also a story about queerness, love, friendship, chosen families, long-distance relationships, connection, discovery, and rediscovery of the fact that life carries on following a bereavement. You are changed irrevocably, but the world keeps spinning, so you must relearn to experience life. 

Grief can be a profoundly isolating experience, even while surrounded by others grieving the same person. Grief is also a communal experience, which can be incredibly healing. With The Light Streamed Beneath It, Shawn Hitchins captures the reality that both can be true simultaneously.
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Hilarious at times but incredibly moving. 
A memoir of love and loss and how you can transform grief into resilience, reminding us we’re not alone in darkness. Loved it
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I was drawn to "The Light Streamed Beneath It" because of the cover and the beginning pages declaring so abruptly, Matt and David are dead. 

What unfolded felt like this description of suffering I have yet to read in any of the books, essays, poems, etc. that have attempted to do justice to the constant ache of mourning. Shawn is an excellent writer. Whether he was describing San Francisco, a dinner party, or finding our his lover was dead, he brought me so deeply into the story that my senses were alert to my surroundings, as if I was there. 

Shawn talks about being labeled as "the first wife" at the bedside of his former partner's deathbed. This narrative was moving and rich. It continues on in the story as he mourns the death of his most recent lover. I love when author's speak to these unseen tragedies, that we have felt, but rarely named. 

Finally, the way this story illustrates the importance of community through the author's recollection of "grief camp". How lucky we are when we get to mourn together. The rituals and rhythms they established post loss are not only inspirational but aspirational. I would love to see Shawn and company develop some resources for folks navigating similar waters. 

Would recommend this book to anyone who has experienced pain.
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Shawn Hitchins grieves for two lovers who died within weeks of one another. This book explores his complex relationship with the two men, their lives, and ultimately, their deaths. It is a moving, often disquieting exploration of grief, recovery, and celebration. I highly recommend this book.
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The Light Streamed Beneath It is a poetic and visceral memoir of queer love and grief.
Shawn Hitchins chronicles the loss of two men he loved within the short span of a year. He shares his insights and pain in poetic and non-linear ways, filled with metaphors as an attempt to verbalise his experience. His grief and attempts to make sense of the loss are apparent on the page in a way that's inescapable. His writing grabs you by the shoulders and asks you to truly listen, to be present.

Despite all of that, this book just wasn't for me! I felt lost and unable to truly connect to Shawns story in the way I had wanted. I don't think this is the book's fault, it's just a case of the wrong book at the wrong time.
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Beautiful writing and an engaging story that is well worth a read. I can't wait to see what other stories author Shawn Hitchins releases going forward.
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Shawn Hitchins is a Canadian comedian, author and actor. Shawn grew up gay in a tiny rural enclave during the 1980s and 90s - between the time of the AIDS epidemic and the expansion of gay rights. Thus Shawn's life has had ups and downs, but he was able to channel his feelings into his entertainment career and his writing.

Shawn's first book, A Brief History of Oversharing: One Ginger's Anthology of Humiliation, is mostly light-hearted and humorous. This memoir is much different, being a journal of profound grief. Shawn lost two people he loved - his former common law husband Matt and his ex-boyfriend David - in a short period of time, and was devastated by the losses. Shawn struggled on, though, and writes, "This story is my path back to aliveness. This story is.....a ballad for two dynamic men who changed my life."

Shawn and his ex-common law husband, Matthew James Hines, were together for six years. During that time Shawn and Matt hosted game nights, dinners, drunken kitchen parties, and holiday celebrations for their different groups of friends. Shawn writes, "[Matt] became my co-captain, by wingman as we traveled from world to world (both his and mine). Life was easier with an ally at these events, someone who also understood the intricacies and backstories of our chosen family trees."

Shawn and Matt also attended weekly dinners at the home of Matt's city mom Louisa, where "champagne flutes bubbled over and four-finger shots of bourbon poured between courses of prime cuts of meat roasted to perfection and decadent buttercream topped cakes."

Shawn and Matt's relationship had its problems though, and they eventually had a 'conscious uncoupling' even though they still cared about each other. Matt got custody of the cat Stevie.

A couple of years after Shawn's common law marriage broke up, he met Californian David Francisco Martinez during a visit to San Francisco. Shawn writes about their sexy meeting; the dynamics of a long-distance romance that included frequent messaging and visits back and forth; David's rental room in the home of Princess Jasmine - who had tickle parties; climbing San Francisco's Bernal Hill with Ziggy the cat tagging along; dinners with David's city mom Rachael and her husband John; intellectual discussions; butter tarts from Ontario; California lemons; and more.

Sadly, David was deeply troubled and the relationship ended within a year. This wounded Shawn, but Shawn and David stayed in touch and tried to be supportive of each other.

In October, 2018 Shawn's ex-common law husband Matt died from a tragic accident, a terrible incident that made Matt's passing even harder for his family and friends. Afterwards, Shawn helped clear Matt's apartment, which brought back memories of Matt's interests, idiosyncrasies, and their time together.

Matt had an anthology of Meryl Streep movies that made him cry (his 'cry-tear-ion collection'); kept a box filled with cards, concert tickets, lanyards, and programs; loved whimsy and miniatures; and was drawn to rickety old spaces with uneven floors and cracked plaster. Shawn recalls, "[Matt] created a warm sense of home with objects he found rummaging through church basements or pulled from curbside trash."

Shawn was crushed by Matt's death, and a second tragedy soon afterwards compounded the trauma.

Six months after Matt's death, in April, 2019, Shawn's former boyfriend David took his own life. This act seemed almost inexplicable to Shawn though he long suspected David was bipolar. Shawn mourned with David's loved ones, who cleared David's apartment and listened to a Spotify playlist of David's music as they recalled his life.

David's loved ones also did an elaborate ritual for the deceased, to send him extra energy on his journey. Later on they had a memorial service where Shawn said, "This is shit. You have to excuse my language. I know it's not right to swear at a memorial, but his is just shit. For those of you experiencing suicide for the first time, welcome to the LGBTQ experience."

Shawn's bereavement process was long and painful, involving therapy, introspection, extensive reading, Gaga movement (a kind of dancing), and more. Getting the cat Stevie back helped as well.

For remembrance, Shawn also made ofrendas for the Day of the Dead, one for Matt and one for David, each covered with their personal effects. Shawn observes, "As I have come to understand it, Dia De Los Muertos celebrates a belief that our beloveds do not die, though they change physical form; they become ancestors who remain alive as part of the social conversation.

Writing this book was part of Shawn's grief and recovery process. The narrative is sad and moving, but also has some light moments and laughs.

Grief is a personal experience for everyone, but this book might help light the way for people who've experienced a loss.

Thanks to Netgalley, Shawn Hitchins, and ECW Press for a copy of the book.
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This is a memoir of grief and celebration of life. The author experienced two traumatic losses in a short time span, but the writing left me wanting more emotion, more honesty. The writing style is descriptive and artful but lacks emotional depth and self-awareness. Hitchins writes as though he is keeping his grief and his feelings at arm's distance. While the social commentary on San Francisco and California is powerful and thought provoking, I wanted more self-analysis in relation to the tragic losses. I had a hard time getting to know each of the men he lost. I wanted to know them and love them. I wanted to feel his pain as an insider rather than the way I found myself outside looking in.
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I really expected to love this one and was incredibly sad when I just couldn't get along with it no matter how I tried. It's undoubtedly going to be an important book for so many people, but I'm afraid it just wasn't for me.
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I think this book will be enjoyed by many people, but I couldn't get into it. Normally I love books told in fractured pieces or vignettes, but I don't think it works here. Some things are described in detail that feels irrelevant, but I also felt like the writing swung from one place to another with no context or explanation, which just left me feeling confused and took me out of the narrative. I decided to DNF at page 77 because I could tell that this writing style just isn't for me, and that's ok - I think it will be an impactful read for many others.
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How does one handle grief?  What can one seek to help in one's self evaluation in this state? 
Hitchins takes on an examination of this in The Light Streamed Beneath It.  On loosing two lovers in a matter of months, Hitchins must find a way to process all of this.  This is not a book of the five stages of grief.  This is about a man seeking to understand his life and the lives of his lovers.
The narrative of the lives of the men in his life and the intersection of him in the lives of the lovers is wonderfully written.  In fact, I found the writing of the sexual exploits to be some of the best I have read.  What could have been just mediocre, the writing in these exploits is raised to a new level.  But beyond these, he looks at what the relationships were and attempts to find answers in reviewing the details. The journey that Hitchens takes is New Agey. But I found the journey worth taking.

Thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for this free ebook.
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I read this book in less than 24 hours. The Light Streamed Beneath It perfectly encapsulates grief and loss and growing spiritually from loss. The way Hitchins writes makes you, the reader, feel as if you are sitting in the room as he learns from these deaths. I commend Hitchins for having the strength to write this book, as there are so many invaluable lessons to pull away from it.
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I think there should be more books on grief. I really enjoyed this memoir. 
I was a little taken aback by the opening chapter, but as I continued to read I realised that it really was part of the his story of self acceptance and to show us the differences between his relationships. I enjoyed reading about these two vastly different lovers, friendships and how they transformed him as a person because some people just have the capacity to change us from within. It was also extremely sad in how both of these people died and how absolutely devastating this was. As awful as it was, for the reader it was quite lovely to witness the love. The only thing I had a small issue with was the jumping between time periods, sometimes it was a little confusing. All in all, I think this must have been a very cathartic book to write. To honour his loves, his friends, his soul mate in such a manner. I felt like I could know them. Thank you for the review copy of this book.
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2,5 stars
Shawn Hitchins writes about losing a loved one and the grief that comes with it. At some points I could feel the intensity of his emotions but at others I was confused. He did not spend a lot of time providing context so I felt like I was thrown into a setting with no information.
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This is a memoir of queer love and loss that draws the reader in. At times I felt like I was intruding in the narrator, Shawn Hitchins', private thoughts and memories. It is a powerful yet devastating account of love and loss.
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This memoir is coming at just the right time, and I can already picture how meaningful it will be for those who read it, relate to it, and find strength from it. The writing is gorgeous and honest, and the cover is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. 

I'm grateful I got to read this 5 star book!
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This is a book on grief. This is a book on relationships. It’s hard to describe how much I love this book. When the book was so heart breaking.
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This upcoming memoir is a story of queer love and loss that hit much closer to home than I expected it to (even beyond having a personal connection to some people in the story and some of the action taking place in my hometown). Hitchins’ story is powerful and devastating, and the perfect ode to found family. While much of the memoir was a straight-forward retelling of events, I found it became extremely powerful and touching in the passages where Hitchins became more introspective. The musings about grief, friendship, and support are what makes this memoir shine, and I think it’s going to be a must-read for any queer person experiencing personal tragedy.
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