A haunting chronicle of what endures when the world we know is swept away
On a day like any other, on a rafting trip down Utah’s Green River, Stéphane Gerson’s eight-year-old son, Owen, drowned in a spot known as Disaster Falls. That same night, as darkness fell, Stéphane huddled in a tent with his wife, Alison, and their older son, Julian, trying to understand what seemed inconceivable. “It’s just the three of us now,” Alison said over the sounds of a light rain and, nearby, the rushing river. “We cannot do it alone. We have to stick together.”
Disaster Falls chronicles the aftermath of that day and their shared determination to stay true to Alison’s resolution. At the heart of the book is Stéphane’s portrait of a marriage critically tested. Husband and wife grieve in radically different ways that threaten to isolate each of them in their post-Owen worlds. (He feels so far,” Stéphane says, when Alison shows him a selfie Owen had taken. “He feels so close,” she says.) With beautiful specificity, Stephane shows how they resist that isolation and reconfigure their marriage from within.
As Stephane navigates his grief, the memoir expands to explore how society reacts to the death of a child. He depicts the “good death” of his father, which enlarges Stephane’s perspective on mortality. He excavates the history of the Green River—rife with hazards not mentioned in the rafting company’s brochures. He explores how stories can both memorialize and obscure a person’s life—and how they can rescue us.
Disaster Falls is a powerful account of a life cleaved in two—raw, truthful, and unexpectedly consoling.
Disaster Falls: A Family Storyby Stephane Gerson
I can't say I had high hopes for this book before I began reading it. Non-fiction is often hit or miss with me, so I was a little bit wary when I picked up this title. I can't say that this story is uplifting or that it is a source of an overly inspiring story--it's quite depressing at times. I do think that almost everyone can find some bit of hope in this book though.
Disaster Falls...sounds quite daunting, doesn't it? After reading this book it sounds even more so. I'm not giving anything away when I say that this book is all at once a love story, and a eulogy. Mr. Gerson, the author of this book and father of Owen Gerson, is a brave soul. I was so impressed at how concisely he set out his story. Writing about death is never easy, but he pulls it off quite well.
His son, Owen, who this book is largely about, sounds like the perfect child. Right away, I hurt for this family; knowing what I knew before I began to read. Right away in the prologue, the reader is informed about the tragedy that befell the Gerson family. Their youngest son, Owen, dies in an accident on their family rafting trip. Disaster Falls then proceeds to be part memoir, part report of what happened so quickly on a mighty river, and thereafter.
I love this book, and the way the story inside is laid out. Throughout the book, memories of Mr. Gerson's father are shared, sometimes in elaborate detail. Though I wasn't quite as intrigued by these parts, it was a nice way to get some back story, and to understand some of the family dynamic. All in all, this book is one that I predict will tug at the heartstrings of many a reader. Though it is a sad story in most respects, it is also a reminder of how fragile this life is.
Review of an Advance Reader's Copy
Profanity/Language: 1 scatological word; 2 F-word derivatives.
Violence/Gore: Jews are mentioned to be shot in a story; a recollection of seeing a person attacked and their tongue cut out is mentioned with some blood; an accident occurs in a river and several people are described to be in danger or fighting for their lives; a young child dies in an accident.
Sex/Nudity: Sex in the afternoon is mentioned briefly; sexuality is mentioned, lack of sex drive.
Mature Subject Matter:
War, death of a child, grief.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Beer is drunk by adults.
Reviewed By Lydia