Recommended Summer Reading –– Louise Erdrich, New York Times
A memoir of friendship and literature chronicling a search for meaning and comfort in great books, and a beautiful path out of grief
Anne Gisleson had lost her twin sisters, had been forced to flee her home during Hurricane Katrina, and had witnessed cancer take her beloved father. Before she met her husband, Brad, he had suffered his own trauma, losing his partner and the mother of his son to cancer in her young thirties. “How do we keep moving forward,” Anne asks, “amid all this loss and threat?” The answer: “We do it together.”
Anne and Brad, in the midst of forging their happiness, found that their friends had been suffering their own losses and crises as well: loved ones gone, rocky marriages, tricky child-rearing, jobs lost or gained, financial insecurities or unexpected windfalls. Together these resilient New Orleanians formed what they called the Existential Crisis Reading Group, which they jokingly dubbed “The Futilitarians.” From Epicurus to Tolstoy, from Cheever to Amis to Lispector, each month they read and talked about identity, parenting, love, mortality, and life in post-Katrina New Orleans,
In the year after her father’s death, these living-room gatherings provided a sustenance Anne craved, fortifying her and helping her blaze a trail out of her well-worn grief. More than that, this fellowship allowed her finally to commune with her sisters on the page, and to tell the story of her family that had remained long untold. Written with wisdom, soul, and a playful sense of humor, The Futilitarians is a guide to living curiously and fully, and a testament to the way that even from the toughest soil of sorrow, beauty and wonder can bloom.
Anne Gisleson’s work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Oxford American, The Believer, and the Los Angeles Times, among other publications, and has been selected for inclusion in several anthologies, including Best American Nonrequired Reading. Gisleson teaches at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and lives in New Orleans with her husband and their two sons. Discover More