Review: Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor
Author: Natalie Taylor
Release Date: April 12, 2011
Rating: 2.5 bookmarks (borrow it)
Natalie’s One-Sentence Synopsis: Natalie Taylor was happily married, 5-months pregnant, and teaching high school English when her beloved husband died in a freak accident leaving her, at age 24, a widow and single mom-to-be.
At the start of 2011, I wrote a post highlighting some of the memoirs I was looking forward to in the upcoming year and Signs of Life was on the list. Hooked by the synopsis, I wanted to know how Taylor managed to deal with such a devastating loss in the face of the birth of her first child.
In her author’s note, Taylor tells readers that the book is essentially a compilation of journal entries that she wrote following Josh’s death and acknowledges that her emotions were raw and that she isn’t necessarily proud of some of things she said or felt.
Each month after Josh’s death is marked by a new chapter in the book, and Taylor incorporates literature into each with quotes or excerpts that she then connects with her emotions. The memoir moved along, but I often found myself cringing at some of Natalie’s inner monologues, especially during interaction with her in-laws.
While I empathized with her, I ultimately found her some of her actions unsympathetic because she seemed to redirect much of her grief and anger toward Josh’s mom and sister. These women were all grieving Josh, but Natalie is easily annoyed by their bumbling attempts to help her. I felt awful judging her–she openly admitted to being abashed by some of her actions–but his mom and sister were also reeling from the sudden loss, and grief manifests itself differently in everyone.
Natalie’s career as a teacher and the birth of her son Kai seemed to help pull her through the morass and she did find comfort with her family, friends, and professionals. She attended a family wedding shortly after Josh’s death, celebrated holidays, and went on family vacations, all indicators that Taylor is a strong woman who was doing her best in the worst of circumstances.
While initially riveting, the writing was a bit uneven and my frustration with Natalie’s lack of ability to see the suffering in others caused my attention to wane. Writing this memoir was most likely cathartic for Taylor, but she might have been better served to keep the journal entries private and to instead write a memoir a few years removed.