Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman – Book Review

Blurb from Goodreads

In 2005, celebrated novelist Francisco Goldman married a beautiful young writer named Aura Estrada in a romantic Mexican hacienda. The month before their second anniversary, during a long-awaited holiday, Aura broke her neck while body surfing. Francisco, blamed for Aura’s death by her family and blaming himself, wanted to die, too. Instead, he wrote Say Her Name, a novel chronicling his great love and unspeakable loss, tracking the stages of grief when pure love gives way to bottomless pain.

Suddenly a widower, Goldman collects everything he can about his wife, hungry to keep Aura alive with every memory. From her childhood and university days in Mexico City with her fiercely devoted mother to her studies at Columbia University, through their newlywed years in New York City and travels to Mexico and Europe—and always through the prism of her gifted writings—Goldman seeks her essence and grieves her loss. Humor leavens the pain as he lives through the madness of grief and creates a living portrait of a love as joyous as it is deep and profound.

Say Her Name is a love story, a bold inquiry into destiny and accountability, and a tribute to Aura, who she was and who she would’ve been.

My Review

There is a piece of praise on the front of this book from the New York Times Book Review that reads ‘at times I felt the book itself had a pulse.’

I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment.

This book is a living, breathing testament to love. To loss. To grief. To despair. But mostly it makes Aura come alive once more.

‘Say Her Name’ is written by Francisco Goldman in memory of his beloved wife Aura who died as a result of injuries she sustained in a freak swimming accident.

Aura was young, beautiful, vibrant…

She had so much to give the world. Her husband Francisco was much older than she but together age did not matter. In many respects Aura was the sensible one…

And it’s this idea that torments Francisco in his grief as Aura’s family blame him for not caring properly for their daughter.

The book is a book of love. I wept openly throughout this read. I wept for the loss of life, for the loss of Francisco’s happiness. I wept for the children they would never have. I wept for the stories she would never write…

But mostly, and probably quite selfishly, I wept because I don’t understand this love. I do not believe that I have ever felt it. And my jealous heart wishes that I could have what they had.

This is a powerful book. You can feel the catharsis that Francisco must have felt as he poured their lives into this novel and that catharsis worked its way into my soul. There was something freeing in knowing that there are good and pure things in this world. That people do truly love and care for each other. That even in death love remains triumphant. That it’s not about how many people you know or acquaintances you make but touching just one other life.

“Hold her tight, if you have her; hold her tight, I thought, that’s my advice to all the living. Breathe her in, put your nose in her hair, breathe her in deeply. Say her name. It will always be her name. Not even death can steal it. Same alive as dead, always. Aura Estrada.”

I bought this book soon after it was first published in 2011 and I tried to read it.
I knew it was beautiful. I knew it was important.

But for some reason I left it unfinished. My life was busy at the time but mostly, I think perhaps I was too young to understand what exactly I was reading.

Or maybe not young. But inexperienced, green, unknowing of things these last seven years or so have taught me.

I know now that the timing then was wrong. I was not ready because I needed this book today.

This was the book I needed after a particularly emotional period of my life when I needed a release. I needed my own catharsis. And amidst the feelings of grief and pain, and the memories of love undying, shared by Fransisco in these pages I found my connection with humanity once again.

Highly recommended

Originally read and reviewed on Goodreads in January 2018

8 thoughts on “Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman – Book Review

  1. What a stunning, review, Emer! I’ll have to file this away for some time when I feel like my weak little heart can handle the intensity of the emotions you described 🥺

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Ngoc! This really is one of those special books that makes me believe in there being more to life than what we see. The love the writer has for his wife… it just was so all encompassing that it simply has to be otherworldly. Or maybe that’s just me being a sentimental soul 😊😊💙💖🧡❤️

      Like

  2. This book sounds painfully beautiful and I definitely need to read it. I’m glad you were able to experience the book at a time when you needed it. This is a beautifully written review.

    Liked by 1 person

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