I sometimes have to ask "why do I do this to myself?" I have this compulsion to read books and see movies about 9/11. Am I a glutton for punishment? Does it help me find closure? I didn't even lose anyone in the tragedy, but I still lost a piece of my heart that day. Each year I mourn, and with every novel, I cry and my stomach hurts. Still I persist.
So up went my antennae when Carrie from Books and Movies reviewed "American Widow" by Alissa Torres. I felt like I owed it to Alissa Torres to read her story.
Synopsis: Alissa and Eddie met at a New York dance club, under the shadow of the Twin Towers, fell in love, and got married. Eddie was an example of the American Dream...born and raised in Colombia, moved to the US and worked his way up the corporate ladder. Then he lost his job, and was hired by Cantor Fitzgerald, whose offices were in the North Tower of the World Trade Center. His first day of work was September 10, 2001.
Seven months pregnant, Alissa is forced to endure a mountain of paperwork, bureaucratic red tape, and uncooperative "assistance", all while silently grieving for her husband. She is plagued with images of her husband jumping (which the authorities believe he did), of the fight they had the night before he died, of her attempt to provide for herself and her infant son. She is bewildered by the animosity and anger directed towards her because of the monetary help she seeks.
But Alissa is nothing if not strong, and she forges through the muck, fights her fight, and comes out the other side ready to tell her story and her husband's story. Despite my typical stomach ache, it is a story of survival and hope.
My thoughts: Another graphic novel hits the bullseye. Between Torres' candid recall of her loneliness, grief and frustration after her husband's death, to Sungyoon Choi's expressive and emotional illustrations, you have nearly walked in Torres' shoes. My heart goes out to Torres, and wished I could introduce her to the Cantor Fitzgerald widows who wrote "Love You, Mean It", another amazing story of resiliance.
There was one thing that confused me about the story (and in hindsight, I think Carrie mentioned this too) was that Alissa was angry at her husband about something on the evening of September 10, 2001 and the morning after when he left for work. She never tells us why, and I suppose it is none of our business. Maybe it was something trivial, and the bigger point was that she was never able to resolve her differences with him. But in the process of the story, it felt like it was a small missing piece.
Generally, I like to include an illustration or two of graphic novels I review, but I found this feature on Torres and her novel, and thought it was better than any one frame I could show you: