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Getting to Know Death: A Meditation (Hardcover)

Getting to Know Death: A Meditation By Gail Godwin Cover Image
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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.

About the Author


Gail Godwin is a three-time National Book Award finalist and the bestselling author of more than a dozen critically acclaimed books, including the novels Grief Cottage, Flora, Father Melancholy's Daughter, and Evensong, and Publishing, a memoir. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts grants for both fiction and libretto writing, and the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Woodstock, New York. www.gailgodwin.com

Praise For…


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

“Old friends now, Gail Godwin and I met as students in Kurt Vonnegut's writing class. With insightful reflection, as she prepares herself for the inevitable, Gail has recalled the loved ones she's lost-in the same crystalline prose that distinguishes her fiction. This book makes me remember the loved ones I've lost, in all the good ways. I wrote Gail that I especially loved the part about the man who thought she was a nun. He just mistook her dedication to writing for a different kind of devotion-one that also requires sacrifice.” —John Irving

“A powerful and poetic reflection on death, dying, and what constitutes a good life . . . Throughout, [Godwin's] tone is curious and vaguely wonderstruck, resulting in an account that's full of insight and free of platitude. This is a gift.” —Publishers Weekly

“Godwin's latest book explores two great themes, love and loss. She writes about her extraordinary friend Pat and her many family members, including her partner, who have died. And she writes with courage and honesty about her own suffering at 86. Moving through life's journey, I look for role models for how to best live in each life stage. Godwin is now a role model for me.” —Mary Pipher

“Like everything the marvelous Gail Godwin writes, her meditation on mortality is vigorous, erudite, sharply witty, and deeply pleasurable. Getting to Know Death is brimming with life.” —Hilma Wolitzer

Getting to Know Death may be the most uplifting, riveting book about 'death' you'll ever read-probably because it's actually about life, work, friendships, and love. Beautifully written, it also provides, directly and indirectly, insights about aging that can help us all live better now and through old age.” —Louise Aronson, Pulitzer finalist and New York Times bestselling author of Elderhood

Getting to Know Death is full of grace and humor, memories of friends and people Godwin has outlived ... If Godwin felt any despair during her recovery it was displaced by her endless curiosity . . . Her creative mind still skips and leaps, pirouetting from present to past, from people and books that have influenced her to the novel she's in the process of writing.” —California Review of Books

“As always, wry, beady­eyed, acute.” —Margaret Atwood on OLD LOVEGOOD GIRLS

“An extraordinary novel about the nature of those rare friendships that fade for long periods of time to only rekindle in an instant when the conditions are right again.” —Ron Charles, The Washington Post, on OLD LOVEGOOD GIRLS

“Powerful, moving, and perfectly crafted… virtuoso dialogue and masterful handling of the passage of time.” —John Irving on OLD LOVEGOOD GIRLS

“Shimmeringly alive… gorgeous, heartbreakingly true, and profound… To say it's a masterpiece is an understatement.” —Caroline Leavitt on OLD LOVEGOOD GIRLS



Product Details
ISBN: 9781639734443
ISBN-10: 1639734449
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Publication Date: June 11th, 2024
Pages: 192
Language: English