The Place of Us by Karen Draper

Karen Draper and her husband are ecstatic to welcome Preston, their first child, into their lives. Joyful anticipation turns to fear when they are told they must prepare to lose him.

We’ve all lost someone. It hurts. Horribly. Most often we scar, heal, and persevere. It’s hardwired, more or less, into the species. But the efficiency of physiological backup and failsafe systems don’t make the excruciating process of loss any easier.

But to lose a child, I presume, can only be one of the worst forms of loss. I’ve had friends who’ve known this tragedy. And read of others. Even following a twenty-three year life that grief must have a magnitude all its own. So when an individual comes along, a writer like Karen Draper, a mom who lost her son literally more than once, her story of grief and empowering renewal is one to be heard.

From the Preface: This is my manifesto on how to celebrate a life. And from Chapter 2, Everyday Angels: Perhaps there was a strange new beauty in the undefined.

Penned years later, utilizing comprehensive research and interviews, the author does a superb job as a memoir writer, telling her utterly personal tale with admirable objectivity.

From Chapter 14, Lost Words and Lost Weekends: Trapped inside a body that didn’t work, like a bank vault stuck shut. And from Chapter 16, Wayward Marbles: I would love to be able to say that we had this disability thing down every day, but we didn’t.

Through relatable life struggles and those only experienced by a parent of a special needs child, we feel the author’s sincerity – simply doing one’s best where no guidebook exists.

From Chapter 19, Wee Birds and Vast Dreams: Physically, he began right back where he started. But this time, things were different. From Chapter 21, Songs of the Spirit: The messy and real, the cracked and worn: all the perfectly imperfect things of life. I imagine then, if we celebrated a love for things, as they already exist; our spirits would soar to unknown heights and our insides, well, they would breathe without compromise. It’s called peace. And from Chapter 25, The Other End of the Rainbow: We survive because we are all connected.

With closure – a chapter, a book, or a life – one can only hope to be left with a takeaway, something tangible, meaningful. Author Karen Draper does this in The Place of Us. I’m left admiring this unique and ordinary individual, a courageous and unremarkable mom, showing the very best traits of the role.

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The Place of Us: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Courage by Karen Draper
Published by E.L. Marker

About the Author: Karen Draper is a writer, poet, and former inclusion advocate who turned her passion for celebrating diversity into her first book. Karen is an avid walker and yoga enthusiast who can easily be enticed by dark chocolate and red wine. She lives in Frederick, Maryland with her husband, Sam.

About the Reviewer: Author, poet, songwriter Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of Gone Viking: A Travel Saga, Allan’s Wishes, Dromomania, and Wonderful Magical Words. His work is published in magazines, literary journals and anthologies around the globe. Bill lives on Canada’s west coast. @billarnott_aps

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