Winner of Four Book Awards:
2022 Nautilus Silver
2022 Readers’ Choice Finalist
2022 The BookFest 2nd Place
2022 The BookFest Honorable Mention
BookLife’s Reveiw of Overcoming Deepest Grief, A Woman’s Journey. This Review in Publishers Weekly, October 17, 2022 BookLife is the arm of Publishers Weekly which handles self-published books.
“When is the thick skin required to live this life supposed to form?” asks Farkas in this pained yet inspiring debut, which follows her journey through the unexpected loss of two pivotal women in her life—her wife, Margaret, and her sister, Lexi. Farkas shares her grief through a collection of essays, poetry, and journal entries arranged in chronological order and detailing her transitions from shock and suicidal thoughts to her eventual “vow to go on living.” In the process she sweeps readers into the depths of her pain and carries them out the other side to healing and rebirth, offering a model for facing the hardest that life has to offer while finding meaning and purpose.
Always mindful of her connection to the Universe—and embodied with a deep sense of wonder at the world around her—Farkas writes with gentle poise, even in the darkest moments of her remembering. “Today, I emptied one jar. I undid your accumulation of insignificance, so significant to me,” she notes while trying to recreate life without Margaret, and, delving into the added pain of Margaret’s family’s bias towards her in the days following the funeral, she conveys “We were just Lesbians, Queer; our relationship didn’t really count.” That innate longing to stamp out bias powers the memoir as Farkas celebrates coming out on her 25th birthday and considers the pain of other minority groups.
Farkas offers much more to her readers than how to cope with grief, although she deposits soft reminders throughout the book for self-care and urges readers to fall back in love with experiences that create joy, whether that’s spiritual stirrings, learning new skills, or rediscovering movement. Farkas’s willingness to unveil her immense pain allows readers the privilege of free expression, and her unwavering self-empathy will inspire them to not just survive, but “come out strong and clear…even thrive.”
Takeaway: A moving meditation on love, loss, and rebirth.
Another BookLife Review – This critique of Overcoming Deepest Grief, A Woman’s Journey was given by The BookLife Prize. This is not the BookLife Prize, rather their critique of my book.
Plot/Idea: 8 out of 10 Originality: 9 out of 10 Prose: 10 out of 10 Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 9.25 out of 10
Assessment: Plot/Idea: The concept behind Overcoming Deepest Grief is simple: one woman’s story of how she dealt with losing her partner of 18 years, Margaret. As readers will quickly find, however, it is about so much more, including the compounding loss of her beloved sister, the trauma of finding Margaret dead in their home, and the unceremonious pillaging of Margaret’s possessions by her somewhat-estranged family. In this profound narrative, a journal-like collection of essays, letters, and poems written in the months and years after Margaret’s death, Farkas records her long, painful, but ultimately joyful, journey to acceptance and happiness.
Prose: Overcoming Deepest Grief is written in beautiful, emotive prose and verse that can either be savored bit by bit or indulged in a single sitting.
Originality: While there are certainly many memoirs that address reclaiming one’s life after profound loss, Farkas’s text stands apart from the pack, in large part because it isn’t consciously trying to be any one thing. A curated collection of writings created throughout her period of bereavement, there is such raw emotion and authenticity in the pages of Overcoming Deepest Grief. Many of the essays deal with grief, sadness, and the seeming impossibility of living through her pain, but the collection is also peppered with writings on different subjects—everything from bees, letting go of racist friends, and odes to the moon—that will delight readers.
Character Development/Execution: A stunning collection of emotive writing sure to touch the hearts of readers, Mary Aviyah Farkas’s Overcoming Deepest Grief: A Woman’s Journey takes readers through the author’s raw, painful journey through the grief she experienced after losing her beloved sister to cancer and then, just a few months later, coming home from work to discover her partner of 18 years deceased in bed. The essays and poems, which were written in the months and years following the dual deaths, allows readers to follow how Farkas was able to slowly start letting joy back into her life one small moment at a time.
Report Submitted: December 7, 2022
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About my book from Rabbi Gershon Winkler, PhD
Difficult to find the right words to describe the journey my eyes took through your book, tugging gently at my heart to follow. Your words sing. I only meant to browse but your poetry, your Presence in every narrative, wooed me across page after page, and wouldn’t let me go.
Thank you for the sharing, the wisdom, the counsel, and for the way you are able to speak of this thing called Love in a way that one can actually know it, taste it, and be thankful for it. Because, in spite of what’s on the news every day and night, the trees are still davvening, swaying in the breeze, and the bees are still tending to the flowers, even the one you thought you hurt, and the caterpillar you placed on that twig never felt happier, having wanted to get up on that tree for days.
Thank you for the gift of the book. But more importantly, thank you for the gift of writing it.
Much love to you, and to Marsha who watched you during that family gathering, and realized how it wasn’t gonna be worth one more night of living without loving — you!
Gershon Winkler, PhD
Founder Walking Stick Foundation
Deeply personal and emotional memoir (Amazon Reviews)
The author’s ability to eloquently chronicle her journey of grief, despair and emotional exhaustion following the passing of her sister and wife are a revelation. Her words are well-chosen, her thoughts coherent, and her descriptions remarkably clear, even in grief. After losing my own life partner, her words resonated strongly, describing an intimate path that’s long but ultimately redemptive in its ability to teach us about ourselves, and eventually restore our hopes in a viable, meaningful future. Aviyah is truly a gifted writer, able to beautifully articulate the flood of feelings, emotions, and insights that come with inconceivable loss.
This is a very intimate telling of significant, emotional highs and lows in the life of the author. The prose and poetry is beautiful, recounting loving relationships formed and broken, reformed, and broken again, moments of despair, and a life of deep spirituality. It is reassuring to know that in spite of tragedy and grief, there can be a satisfying return to love and belonging, by recognizing and sharing in the grieving of others, and persevering in reaching out in pursuit of loving relationships.
From my Introduction: In 2008 I began writing a blog, A Woman’s Voice for Love and Reason, to house the pain of coping with my wife’s death. Margaret and I had been married (not legally because the laws then did not allow it) from 1988 to 2006. Unexpectedly, on the third day of January, 2006, I found her dead at home, less than six months after the death of my dearest sister Lexi. What followed was my journey through deep, unrelenting grief.
My book contains the writing which allowed me to travel from grief, through acceptance and gratitude, into a state of near constant joy. This book is a place where you can see my thoughts after the death of the two most important people in my life, my wife and my older sister. It contains essays, prose and poems all of which helped me traverse the road of deep grief. It is written as a chronology. Overcoming Deepest Grief, A Woman’s Journey is not a self-help manual, though you may well take my thoughts as a guide.
My hope and prayer is that the words in my book, these words which helped me live again, will find your heart and allow you to transform your deepest despair and pain into Acceptance, Gratitude and Joy. I write to share, to provide insights, to hearten the souls of those who long for the sanity of reason and love. Compassion is only the extension of reason. Our basic needs are one. Our compassion must begin with ourselves…then extend to others.