I wanted to post a quick review of If There Are Any Heavens: A Memoir by Nicholas Montemarano since it was published today.
What can you say about a book like this? The publisher’s description really captures it:
Written with visceral urgency in the earliest days of grief, If There Are Any Heavens resists categorization: it is a memoir, a poem, a mournful but loving song … It is an almost real-time account of the anxiety, uncertainty, and sorrow brought on by this pandemic. It is also, finally, a devastating homage to a family’s love in a time of great loss.
I grabbed my review copy and started reading it at the end of April and read it straight through. It is spare and yet emotional, immediate and yet ethereal, mundane and yet profound. Its power comes from capturing the powerful emotions and yet surrealism of the pandemic, the question “Is this really happening?” echoes throughout. It contrasts the helpless feeling of losing a loved one with the anger and denial of others but not in a heavy handed way.
This is an important work for those who did not lose a loved one or experience that aspect of the pandemic to read, to get a glimpse into that world and hopefully gain understanding and empathy.
Truly a literary wrestling with historic and yet deeply personal events.
Kirkus: “A poignant elegy for a beloved mother.”
Library Journal: “Montemarano’s unique literary memoir offers an absorbing, visceral experience of the pandemic and should easily find a dedicated audience.”
Shelf Awareness: “Though his story is specific–a description of only one death among more than a million–his eloquence transports it to the realm of the universal.”