When I first tucked into Paul Lisicky’s new memoir The Narrow Door, I assumed that it would be a tribute to his late writer friend Denise Gess, who lost her battle to cancer in 2009. But we soon learn that Lisicky’s loss of Denise is compounded by a deteriorating relationship with his partner of sixteen years, poet Mark Doty. Without veering into overly maudlin territory, Lisicky uses this perfect storm of catastrophes to reflect on losses of all magnitudes. It is the disasters beyond our power that Lisicky fixates on most—natural disasters, the senseless murder of Marvin Gaye—as his own surroundings spiral out of control. Sound like a downer? True to its title, the book does offer a shaft of light through the narrow door. Beyond loss and pain, there is always the possibility of something better. Recommended for those who enjoyed Ann Patchett’s This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, or Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams.
RATING: * * * * Very, very good
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Reviewed by: Susannah B.