The Book of Grief and Hamburgers
A poignant meditation on mortality from a beloved Canadian poet
A writer friend once pointed out that whenever Stuart Ross got close to something heavy and “real” in a poem, a hamburger would inevitably appear for comic relief. In this hybrid essay/memoir/poetic meditation, Ross shoves aside the heaping plate of burgers to wrestle with what it means to grieve the people one loves and what it means to go on living in the face of an enormous accumulation of loss. Written during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, shortly after the sudden death of his brother left him the last living member of his family and as a catastrophic diagnosis meant anticipating the death of his closest friend, this meditation on mortality — a kind of literary shiva — is Ross’s most personal book to date. More than a catalogue of losses, The Book of Grief and Hamburgers is a moving act of resistance against self-annihilation and a desperate attempt to embrace all that was good in his relationships with those most dear to him.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Somehow, poet Stuart Ross makes an extended journey into grief feel not just poignant but also very funny. In this collection of diary entries, poems, and essays about loss, Ross starts by pointing out how, oftentimes in the past when things got too heavy in one of his poems, he’d suddenly mention hamburgers—you know, just to lighten things up. This tongue-in-cheek idea sets the tone perfectly, as Ross takes a deeply authentic look at his own avoidance of grief, touching on all the unlikely figures he’s turned to to deal with loss, from Kafka to the Marx Brothers. We were compelled by Ross’ wit and honesty and moved by the way that he ultimately expresses his feelings about his departed loved ones with artfulness and vulnerability. Whether or not you’ve struggled with grief yourself, The Book of Grief and Hamburgers will open new doors for you.