Book Club Guest Blog: Signs of Life and the Healing Power of Literature

March 19, 2012 at 12:45 pm , by

Today’s post is by Neely Kennedy of Reading Group Choices, a leading online resource for book club tips and discussible selections.

In the LHJ book club pick, Signs of Life, author Natalie Taylor shares her story of loss, grief and healing following the untimely death of her husband. She finds love and hope in her baby, takes comfort in the support of her friends, and, as a high school English teacher, reflects on the wisdom she’s read in great books.

Here are some brief excerpts from the book that illustrate how Taylor used classic literature as therapy, helping her understand and deal with her grief.

After the death of her husband, Taylor suffers agonizing grief. She relates the shock and disbelief with characters from The Great Gatsby.

“Oh my God, I’m never going to see him again…I will never be able to go back…I know that even now, three months later, my brain hasn’t fully absorbed the concept. That’s what Gatsby and I also have in common. We can’t seem to swallow our own realities.”

When Taylor gives birth to her son, Kai, she is overcome with an a feeling of love and hopefulness that even the greatest poets cannot describe.

“The best way I can say it is that when a baby is born, the ghosts of the world’s greatest poets stand and listen to the cry of a life that just took its first breath and even they can’t find the words.”

As Taylor begins to redefine her life, she is inspired to avoid the ‘W’ of widowhood, like the label ‘A’ for adulterer in The Scarlet Letter.

“Suddenly literature turns into a good movie and you’re standing up in your seat, smiling and clapping in your head. You wish at some point in your life you get to tell someone how you really feel. It makes you wish you had the courage to redefine what your letter stood for.”

As Taylor finally sees the light at the end of the tunnel, Thoreau’s writing helps put her expectations for the future into perspective.

“…although Thoreau’s narrative of ice melting may not wow the average twenty-first century audience, the process itself is really amazing when you think about it. Nature understands that things take time. You can’t rush certain things if you want them to work correctly…Sometimes I really look forward to how I will feel in ten years.”


During your Signs of Life book club discussion, ask your members to:

  • Share the three books that have made the biggest impact in their lives. What meaningful lessons did the books offer?
  • Write his/her own six-word memoir.  For Example: Hope triumphs death; life goes on.


2 Responses to “Book Club Guest Blog: Signs of Life and the Healing Power of Literature”

  1. hi

  2. Rather amusing idea

    P.S. Please review icons