The moment when Patty Dann’s husband was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, she felt as though the ground had dropped out beneath her. Her grief, however, was immediately interrupted by the realization that she would have to tell their three-year-old son, Jake, that his father was dying. The prognosis gave her husband just a year to live. In that short time, the three of them—Patty, Willem, and Jake—would have to find a way to live with the illness and prepare for his death.
Written with disarming honesty, courage, and humor, Patty weaves together a series of vignettes that chart her and Jake’s eventual acceptance of their new family—through coping with the daily challenges, the sorrow, and the uncertainty, as well as embracing the surprising moments of beauty and acceptance. As much about exploring memory as it is about appreciating the moment, this captivating narrative will serve as a genuine comfort to anyone surprised by grief.
Click here to watch a live interview with Patty Dann on CBS Sunday Morning News.
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"The most protective parent must one day reveal the hard truth that life ends. For Patty Dann, that wrenching task came sooner than any mother would wish. Dann's memoir is filled with brave arguments for accepting death and may underscore the very natural difficulty people have in doing so. Evocatively titled . . . striking."—New York Times Book Review
Click here to read more about The Goldfish Went on Vacation in the New York Times "Modern Love" column.
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"Patty Dann writes movingly of losing her husband Willem to cancer. In this affecting memoir, Dann chronicles Willem's quick decline and her own struggle to help three-year-old Jake deal with losing his dad. No goldfish-went-on-vacation euphemizer, she opts for straight talk while allowing Jake his talismans—Band-Aids plastered on his toy trucks, beach glass arranged in an intricate pattern on his parents' bed. . . . Dann brings home the enormity of their loss but you get the feeling they're two who, together, will survive just fine."—People
"What sets Patty Dann's volume apart is the remarkable three-year-old boy at its heart, and how, with the help of a smart therapist, he deals with the death of his father from brain cancer."—USA Today
"Dann lets her story unfold as a series of short vignettes—some triggered by a mundane object, others by something someone said. Bittersweet and painfully honest, Dann's memoir of how she had to leave one life and begin another is remarkable."—Publishers Weekly
"Writing with grace and candor, and vivid bursts of humor, Ms. Dann shares the hard-won wisdom that the way to speak about death is honestly and openly. A wonderfully generous and helpful book."—Abigail Thomas, author of A Three Dog Life
"A lovely, beautifully rendered memoir. A great wisdom resides in these short chapters, and Dann presents it in straightforward, succinct, crystalline prose."—Fenton Johnson, author of Geography of the Heart: A Memoir
"Patty Dann writes about love and loss in a way that is stirring and important. Like Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, this book takes readers through experiences they might be frightened to imagine, and it does so with poise, wit, and originality."—Meg Wolitzer, author of The Position and Surrender, Dorothy