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These poems are steeped in loss and lament as they concern the death of the poet’s family members, particularly her father and the premature death of two brothers two years apart. The collection’s tone is often elegiac, but rarely maudlin, and the clipped narrative is frequently imbued with lyrical strains. There is an abundance of quotes and hat-tip allusions that act as sign posts along the grieving journey.
Maxwell’s poems are emotional counterpoints to life’s implacable realities. Sickness and old age come to her father, as eventually does death. Her brothers are taken before their time and once again death enters her life. In the resulting response she learns that self-recrimination, denial, or anger cannot change the course of events. She teaches us that grief is a singular and deeply emotional experience and the poems convey this intimacy.