10 July, 2015

The light of the world: a memoir by Elizabeth Alexander

The title of this lovely book is taken from a poem by Derek Walcott: “O Beauty, you are the light of the world.”

Described as a memoir of love and loss, it is the story of the life shared by American poet and playwright Elizabeth Alexander and her husband Ficre, who suddenly and swiftly dies by heart attack four days after celebrating his 50th birthday.

When Elizabeth and Eritrean-born artist, chef and restaurateur Ficre first meet she describes it as an actual coup de foudre (bolt of lightning or love at first sight) and they decide to marry within a week of this first meeting. Through Alexander’s eyes we see their enviable marriage filled with the warmth of dancing at weddings, making coffee, planting gardens and talking about everything under the sun.

Ficre calls his home his casa dolce casa where he is a loving and gentle father to his two sons and where friends and family gather. Nourishment happens in the form of food as well as poetry and art.

After his death Alexander describes how she comes to terms with the “new normal” life she must live but always in the background is the shadow of her soulmate guiding and comforting her. Eventually she and the children leave the home and garden where Ficre smoked and planted trees for his beloved, to move to New York.

The language is in parts lavishly metaphorical and at times downright simple, a perfect fit for a love story between poet and artist. According to some readers, reading this book is like watching a foreign film - an emotionally rich experience.

Title: The light of the world: a memoir
Author: Elizabeth Alexander

Reviewed by Suneeta N, Highland Park Library

Suneeta N particularly enjoys biographies, travel stories and reading authors from around the world. She loves a good discussion and believes that everybody has a story worth telling.

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