Getting to Know Death

A Meditation

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Pub Date Jun 11 2024 | Archive Date Jun 30 2024
Bloomsbury USA | Bloomsbury Publishing

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"Getting to Know Death could just as easily be called Getting to Know Life. As a meditation, it is both unsentimental and full of wonder. As a piece of writing, it stands beside the best of Godwin's fiction. Extraordinary." -Ann Patchett

From New York Times-bestselling, three-time National Book Award finalist Gail Godwin, a consideration of what makes for a life well lived-for readers of Oliver Sacks's Gratitude and Deborah Levy's Cost of Living.

I can't see a way out of this.
Things will not necessarily get better.
This is my life, but I may not get to do what I want in it.

Ingmar Bergman once said that an artist should always have one work between himself and death. When renowned author Gail Godwin tripped and broke her neck while watering the dogwood tree in her garden at age eighty-five, a lifetime of writing and publishing behind her and a half-finished novel in tow, Bergman's idea quickly unfurled in front of her, forcing her to confront a creative life interrupted. In Getting to Know Death, Godwin shares what spoke to her while in a desperate place. Remembering those she has loved and survived, including a brother and father lost to suicide, and finding meaning in the encounters she has with other patients as she heals, she takes stock of a life toward the end of its long graceful arc, finding her path through the words she has written and the people she has loved.

At once beautiful, biting, precise, poetic, and propulsive, Getting to Know Death is her own reckoning with the meaning of a life, the forms of passion that guide it, and how the stories we hold can shape our memories and preserve our selves as we write our own endings.

"Getting to Know Death could just as easily be called Getting to Know Life. As a meditation, it is both unsentimental and full of wonder. As a piece of writing, it stands beside the best of Godwin's...

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ISBN 9781639734443
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Featured Reviews

While reading “Getting to Know Death”, A Meditation….(a book I knew I wanted to read instantly ‘especially’ because Gail Godwin wrote it)…..
I couldn’t help but think of my own family and friends, who have died in just these past four years—since Covid. I hadn’t experienced so much personal loss from death. (I’ll be 72 soon)…. since I was a child. My father died when I was four, followed by both grandparents and my uncle by the time I was seven.
Facing one’s own mortality is scary—at least I think so. And it’s true that the young look forward and the old look back…..but in this book — Gail showed me a way of looking back and forward at the same time.

Having read Godwin’s books: “Flora”, “Evensong”,
“Old Lovegood Girls”, “Unfinished Desires”,
“Grief Cottage”, and “Publishing” ….its fair to say that I’m a fan of Gail’s work. Her characters always feel so human, so real. So it didn’t surprise me that this very personal book, vividly brought herself to life. I love her more.

This is beautifully written — intelligent — emotionally wise - and an inside look at how a sudden tragic accident affects us…..affected Gail.
She captured the soul and spirit of life, family, friendships, new and old friendships, cherished memories, passions, writing, (poems are included), book touring, hiking, great love, personal history, admiration for other authors, love, loss, death, grief, also contentment.
Stories are weaved together depicting choices and challenges in her early life and present life.

A treasure…. honesty, vulnerability, and strength shine throughout.
And….if you get a craving for a slice of almond cake laced with rhubarb, don’t be surprised.

“Soon it will be one year since I went out to water the little dogwood and fell on the gravel and broke my neck. Twelve days after that, I will celebrate my eighty-sixth birthday”.


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Because I love Gail Godwin's fiction, I felt compelled to read this meditation. I was not disappointed. "Getting to Know Death" is beautifully written, engaging, and insightful without being sentimental. It begins with a life-changing accident and closes expecting her eighty-sixth birthday. If Godwin chooses to write a meditation on each of her years following this one, I will gladly read them all. Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC.
#GettingtoKnowDeath #NetGalley

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I have always enjoyed Gail Godwins novels and as I began reading Getting to Know Death I was completely swept into her thoughts on aging and life.Following an accident in her garden her independent life changes and she shares her recovery her life changes.So thoughtful so real. #netgalley #bloomsbury

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