Sadie Hoagland’s new book “American Grief in Four Stages,” a collection of short fiction, asks the question: why does our country do so little for the bereaved? Why do we have only empty cliché to address the grief of others? Why do we expect people to just "get over" insurmountable tragedy?
“American Grief in Four Stages” imagines trauma as a space in which language fails us and narrative escapes us. These stories play with form and explore the impossibility of elegy and the inability of our culture to communicate grief, or sympathy, outside of cliché.
One narrator, for example, tries to understand her brother’s suicide by excavating his use of idioms. Other stories construe grief and trauma in much subtler ways—the passing of an era or of a daughter’s childhood, the seduction of a neighbor, the inability to have children. From a dinner party with Aztecs to an elderly shut-in’s recollection of her role in the Salem witch trials, these are stories that defy expectations and enrich the imagination. As a whole, this collection asks the reader to envisage the ways in which we suffer as both unbearably painful and unbearably American.
Sadie Hoagland is a fiction writer based in Louisiana. She has a PhD in fiction from the University of Utah and an MA in Creative Writing/Fiction from UC Davis. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Alice Blue Review, The Black Herald, Mikrokosmos Journal, South Dakota Review, Sakura Review, Grist Journal, Oyez Review, Passages North, Five Points, The Fabulist, South Carolina Review and elsewhere. She is a former editor of Quarterly West, and currently teaches fiction at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Follow her on Facebook at Sadie Hoagland.