Notes on Grief
Notes on Grief is an exquisite work of meditation, remembrance, and hope, written in the wake of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s beloved father’s death in the summer of 2020. As the COVID-19 pandemic raged around the world, and kept Adichie and her family members separated from one another, her father succumbed unexpectedly to complications of kidney failure.
Expanding on her original New Yorker piece, Adichie shares how this loss shook her to her core. She writes about being one of the millions of people grieving this year; about the familial and cultural dimensions of grief and also about the loneliness and anger that are unavoidable in it. With signature precision of language, and glittering, devastating detail on the page—and never without touches of rich, honest humor—Adichie weaves together her own experience of her father’s death with threads of his life story, from his remarkable survival during the Biafran war, through a long career as a statistics professor, into the days of the pandemic in which he’d stay connected with his children and grandchildren over video chat from the family home in Abba, Nigeria. In the compact format of We Should All Be Feminists and Dear Ijeawele, Adichie delivers a gem of a book—a book that fundamentally connects us to one another as it probes one of the most universal human experiences. Notes on Grief is a book for this moment—a work readers will treasure and share now more than ever—and yet will prove durable and timeless, an indispensable addition to Adichie’s canon.
Notes on Grief
"That grief of mine, no longer singular, was subsumed in the collective wail. That is, until Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s visceral exploration of her own father’s unexpected death that month. In 30 short sections, “Notes on Grief” lays a path by which we might mourn our individual traumas among the aggregate suffering of this harrowing time."
"Notes on Grief is a moving account of a daughter’s sorrow and it is also a love letter to the one who has gone. Adichie wants him back; she wants to rescue him from death and to tell him once again how much she adored him. She is saying don’t go and she is saying goodbye and she is also saying sorry – for the writing of grief is to acknowledge an ending and, thus, as Jacques Derrida had it, as soon as you write, you are asking for forgiveness."
"When you send a great writer into the valley of the dead, the reportage is better quality. In 1961 CS Lewis wrote A Grief Observed of the year after the death of his wife; in 2005 Joan Didion wrote The Year of Magical Thinking about the same time span after the death of her husband. Into this tradition falls Notes on Grief by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie…For fans of the famously private Adichie - this is fascinatingly intimate. It is also delivered in the most readable, tender bites for any of the many of us whose attention has been shot by the harrowing of this past year."
"It will not delay you long, but what it leaves will stay with you, like figures caught in a strobe light, lined up so closely that you can jump from one to another with a jolt that captures the jerkiness of the hours and days and weeks that follow the detonation… Most of all I liked having a companion, rather than a guide, who didn’t try to advise me how to grieve properly but told me what it is like: “‘Never’ has come to stay. ‘Never’ feels so unfairly punitive. For the rest of my life I will live with my hands outstretched for things that are no longer there."
"Both emotional and austere, a work of dignity and of unravelling. Spare and yet spiritually nutritious, the book serves as a reflection of Adichie’s turmoil in loss. It is also an exquisitely written tribute to her father."