4 out of 4 stars
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Eden Tijerina’s The Stages of Rot delves into Ms. Tijerina’s exploration of her own grief upon losing her long time boyfriend. The author takes us through her eight stages of grief through prose and photography. In each stage, the author conveys her love, thoughts, and feelings as she processes life without him. Each stage starts with a quote that depicts the essence of the author’s progression. Prose and photos are intertwined to tell her story.
The cover art immediately draws you in, with the text appearing as roots going down into the ground and up out of the letters, towards the sky. You know the book must deal with death or something morbid but aren’t yet sure how that will be expressed. With some research, I discovered that the original book is a hardback book that one might expect to find sitting on a coffee table.
Tijerina’s prose makes you feel her love and pain. Some are quick thoughts, while others are more extended reflections. With this quote, “Fallen blackbird, great mechanical serpent, misshapen infant, always waiting for me to invite you in, my handsome harbinger of dead and dying things,” one immediately “sees” death. I was drawn in and remembered my own feelings shortly after my father’s death. Throughout the book, the connections to my own life were genuine, primarily when she refers to herself as the keeper of memories. She brings to life what many of us have a hard time expressing ourselves: death, grief, love, and life.
Photographer Celina Odeh shows Tijerina’s grief in a vivid, artistic manner. Some photos show Tijerina naked, forlorn, and desolate, while others are of places and objects, often having the aura of fog. One of my favorites shows the author naked, leaning on a wall, appearing sad but perhaps seeing life as she looks up at some butterflies. Note that some photos are graphic in unique ways and are not for the feint of heart. Odeh’s ability to convey Tijerina’s prose through photos is by far my favorite part of the book.
Ultimately, The Stages of Rot is a book about surviving grief with courage and coming out of it. I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. The combination of prose and photography demonstrates the process of grief in ways I haven’t seen elsewhere. The editing is flawless. The only thing I disliked was the numerous blank pages, but I do think this was a stylistic choice, rather than an editing issue. Adult readers who are experiencing, or have experienced grief, are most likely to find this book appealing. Some level of maturity is needed to process what is shared.
The Stages of Rot
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