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Say Her Name [Hardcover]

Francisco Goldman
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Aug 2011
Celebrated novelist Francisco Goldman married a beautiful young writer named Aura Estrada in a romantic Mexican hacienda in the summer of 2005. The month before their second anniversary, during a long-awaited holiday, Aura broke her neck while body surfing. Francisco, blamed for Aura's death by her family and blaming himself, wanted to die, too. But instead he wrote Say Her Name, a novel chronicling his great love and unspeakable loss, tracking the stages of grief when pure love gives way to bottomless pain. Suddenly a widower, Goldman collects everything he can about his wife, hungry to keep Aura alive with every memory. From her childhood and university days in Mexico City with her fiercely devoted mother to her studies at Columbia University, through their newlywed years in New York City and travels to Mexico and Europe-and always through the prism of her gifted writings-Goldman seeks her essence and grieves her loss. Humor leavens the pain as he lives through the madness of utter grief and creates a living portrait of a love as joyous and playful as it is deep and profound. Say Her Name is a love story, a bold inquiry into destiny and accountability, and a tribute to Aura-who she was and who she would have been.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press / Atlantic Monthly Press (1 Aug 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1611856027
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611856026
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 412,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Passionate and moving... beautifully written... the truth that emerges in this book has less to do with the mystery of [Aura's] death... than with the miracle of the astonishing, spirited, deeply original young woman Goldman so adored... So remarkable is this resurrection that at times I felt the book itself had a pulse." --The New York Times Book Review

"To call Francisco Goldman's book about the death of his young Mexican wife an elegy hardly represents it. Lament is closer, but insufficient. It is a chain of eruptions, a meteor shower; not just telling but bombarding us in a loss that glitters. With the power and fine temper of its writing, it is as much poem as prose... Tense set pieces, respectively heartbreaking and chilling... generate the book's propulsive drama. What they propel, though, is its most remarkable achievement: the incandescent portrait of a marriage of opposites." --Boston Globe

"We may feel we know something about love's burn, the scorching heat of loss, but reading this book is to stand in front of a blow-torch, to take a farrier's rasp to raw nerve ends. Say Her Name is wrenching, funny, powerful, and beautiful." --Annie Proulx

"This is a beautiful love story, and an extraordinary story of loss. Say Her Name has a forensic honesty, a way of treating each detail, each moment, each emotion, with detailed and exact care. It also has a way of holding the reader, of moving between Brooklyn and Mexico City, capturing the essence of two worlds, capturing the essence of two people who were lucky enough to fall in love."
--Colm Toibin

'It's the must-read novel of the summer... both a beautiful evocation of love and loss, and a searing dispatch written from within a personal Ground Zero.' --Sunday Times

'It leads the reader into Goldman's private underworlds, and somehow, sure-footedly, manages to navigate a way out.' --Observer

'Passionate and moving... beautifully written... the truth that emerges in this book has less to do with the mystery of [Aura's] death... than with the miracle of the astonishing, spirited, deeply original young woman Goldman so adored... So remarkable is this resurrection that at times I felt the book itself had a pulse.' --New York Times Book Review

'We may feel we know something about love's burn, the scorching heat of loss, but reading this book is to stand in front of a blow-torch, to take a farrier's rasp to raw nerve ends. Say Her Name is wrenching, funny, powerful, and beautiful.' --Annie Proulx

'This is a beautiful love story, and an extraordinary story of loss. Say Her Name has a forensic honesty, a way of treating each detail, each moment, each emotion, with detailed and exact care. It also has a way of holding the reader, of moving between Brooklyn and Mexico City, capturing the essence of two worlds, capturing the essence of two people who were lucky enough to fall in love.' --Colm Toibin

`What makes Say Her Name so unforgettable, apart from the beauty of the writing, is that the book is written partly as a love story but also partly as a moral trial.' --Evening Standard

About the Author

Francisco Goldman is the author of three novels: The Long Night of White Chickens which was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award; The Ordinary Seaman, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and The Divine Husband. His non-fiction work The Art of Political Murder: Who killed the Bishop? was a Best Book of the Year for The Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post and The Economist in 2007. Goldman has been a contributing editor for Harper's magazine and his fiction, journalism and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, Esquire and The New York Times Magazine.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Superb writing... 22 Mar 2011
By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Francisco Goldman's book tribute to his late wife, "Say Her Name", has elicited controversy between the Amazon/USA reviewers as well as between the characters in the book. What I'm going to write will probably cause me to be stoned by both sides!

Goldman's writing is lovely and the part about Aura's death is particularly strong. The problems with this book are the characters, none of whom is particularly likable. Now, I don't need to "like" the characters of a book to find value in it; for instance, Tova Reich's characters in all her novels are just plain base and venal, but I adore her work.

And that's the difference between non-fiction and fiction. In works of fiction, the characters are just that, "fiction". You don't have to worry about running into them on the street and finding them just as odious in the flesh as they are on the page. Non-fiction characters - and that's what, basically Goldman's characters are - ARE real. Some of the minor ones are composites and Goldman makes other, inexplicable, changes, like changing the name of the college he teaches at. The main characters, Goldman, his young wife, her mother, her father, her stepfather, Goldman's parents, etc, I presumed to be real. There's not an example of good mental health among them and many of them act in ways to others that can only be described as "passive-aggressive". Or "aggressive-aggressive", in some cases.

None of that is necessarily bad in a book, if the nuts are at least sometimes presented with a touch of humor. Unfortunately, there's not much humor in this book; it is, after all, a book about a promising young woman's tragic death at an early age and the loving friends and family she's left behind.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes Loss Can Lead You To Remember Beauty 21 Oct 2011
Format:Hardcover
Say Her Name
by Francisco Goldman

I heard about this title on Wisconsin Public Radio and was riveted by the author's candid as well as incredibly heart-breaking account of his wife's death in a bodysurfing accident.

In the first few chapters I went back and forth from feeling sorry for this man's broken heart to thinking; geez buster, things happen, get on with it. Then I began to see the tapestry he so cleverly wove in order to try and understand how one's destiny could possibly be anticipated. To understand death and where it comes from and to dig for possible signs is the beginning of his quest...

New York Times bestselling author Francisco Goldman thought he'd found his true love in Aura Estrada, an intelligent graduate student in creative writing twenty years his junior. He was smitten.

"...had a kind of magical, like the clairvoyant empathy of a holy child, and I remember thinking that everybody at least now and then should react like that to the world's murderous horrors."

Since Goldman is also an award-winning journalist, he approached his wife's death, after only two years of marriage, as only a writer can--he wrote. Flowing from the past to the present Goldman pieces together Aura's life through her diaries, interviews of her many friends as well as studying many of her computer documents. Interestingly, he also studied the science of waves and used this powerful metaphor as almost a separate character; the Villon. A man obsessed with trying to understand; a man driven to keep the memory of his wife as alive as possible. Yet what is this mysterious thing called memory?

"Sometimes it's like juggling a hundred thousand crystal balls in the air all at once, trying to keep all these memories going.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it 4 July 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It is a great book. Loved it. The author's writing is amazing and he can communicate what he's feeling to
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meticulous writing 9 Jan 2013
Format:Paperback
I often put books down and don't go back to them for weeks or months, it's an energy thing. Unless I utterly love what I am reading. I loved 'Say Her Name' although it's almost entirely lacking in lightness. A horribly sad story - based on real life - and I liked it because the characters are flawed, and the writing meticulous. I did find it hard to read as a novel though, I read it more as a (fictionalised) memoir, though if the author says it is a novel, then a novel it is. I trust his instincts.
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