NOTE: The Specific Gravity of Grief was a free review copy provided to Luke Reviews by Fairwood Press.
While Luke Reviews generally focuses on books geared mainly for entertainment, occasionally a much more serious work comes along that I just can’t pass up. When a copy of The Specific Gravity of Grief by Jay Lake came to my mailbox, I was really looking forward to it. I hadn’t had the pleasure of working with Fairwood Press in a while, and that is always a positive experience. Jay Lake was an author I had heard wonderful things about, but had never had the opportunity of reading before. And I like novellas, especially after a series a longer books, or in this case final exam week. Jay Lake has been having his own battle with cancer, and so this semi-autobiographical work was very intriguing to dive into.
As a man, who shares a name with this work’s author, struggles with the onslaughts life has thrown at him, he explores his repeated fights with cancer, his daughter’s similar battle, and his marriage, along with his floundering writing career. This novella doesn’t contain elements of fantasy, science fiction, horror, or the other normal genres seen here at Luke Reviews, but is very much about an author of those works, and of people, which is what infuses all great works, genre or not.
Lake’s novella taps into the harshness of cancer, yet expresses it in beautiful prose, that is both gorgeously phrase and imminently readable. The collage he creates, mixing present events with those of his characters past, and long streams of internal monologue, makes a brilliant picture of grief, pain, and eventually, hope. It is hard to say much more about the story, as it is intricately woven and fits together tightly, thus giving one piece would reduce the impact of the rest, but this is a wonderful novella that reaches to depths not often explored in such a manner. Lake achieves all of that by writing a short novella that wastes no words, but gets to the point without excessive riffraff and hundreds of extra pages.
This one is coming out in a very limited edition, only 250 copies, and is likely the top novella I have read from 2010 so far. Don’t mess around, and get on top of ordering this one, because it shouldn’t be missed, and won’t be around long. This is a wonderful, powerful story.