Book Review: The Gift of Great Sorrow
Reviewed by Lindsay Crandall
A once-in-a-lifetime story of triumph over tragedy
Louise Braun Frank has had to endure something no parent should: the loss of not one, but both of her children. In The Gift of Great Sorrow, she provides an intimate and inspirational look into her and her children’s lives as she works tirelessly to embody her father’s wise words, “Watch them live, don’t watch them die.”
Frank was raised in a military family that didn’t openly discuss feelings or pain—most of her childhood accidents and injuries were met with “you’ll be fine”s and “shake it off”s. This upbringing greatly shapes the way she raises her two children, Joshua James and Leah Ann Chalcraft. Both children were wildly different babies—where Joshua is calm and content, Leah is wild and challenging, demanding attention.
Louise, caring for two small children while navigating a struggling marriage, is determined to take time to care for herself to ensure she is giving her children her absolute best.
At the age of three, Joshua starts to exhibit some unique symptoms and after two years of diagnostics, he’s finally diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia, a hereditary disease that lay dormant in Louise and Keith’s genetic history for many generations. When Leah is two, she starts exhibiting similar symptoms to Joshua and, at the age of six, is also officially diagnosed.
Each child handles their declining health a bit differently. Throughout all of this, Louise is there, fighting for her children to have every opportunity they desire, while struggling to find a balance in accepting help. She is doing her best to keep her children thriving but eventually begins to burn out; she separates from her husband, her physical health begins to spiral, and she leaves home for two months.
Therapy helps Louise realize that she needs to be a priority—she takes the time she needs and returns to tackle a divorce and custody arrangements, caring for her children for whatever time they have left.
Louise’s children pass away in their early twenties, Joshua at 23 and Leah at 25. In the aftermath of both children passing, Louise is lost. She’s dedicated the past twenty-five years to caring for her children’s every need. Three years after Leahs’ death, Louise realizes she needs to come back to life. “Ultimately, joy and positivity are choices. They do not just happen,” she states. She started making bucket-lists of things she wanted to experience, places she wanted to go. She traveled the world and had great adventures.
The way Louise writes about her life and her children is inspiring. Her children were both dealt a terrible hand, but they never stopped talking about their hopes and dreams for the future. They lived big lives and taught Louise to keep making plans every day for the future she wanted. Louise instills that into her writing, inspiring her readers to realize that they are much stronger than they believe. She deftly captures deep emotions and delivers them smoothly, creating beauty and purpose in a profoundly sad journey.
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Genre: Nonfiction / Memoir / Grief
Print Length: 248 pages
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