An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination
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An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  3,224 ratings  ·  680 reviews
"This is the happiest story in the world with the saddest ending," writes Elizabeth McCracken in her powerful, inspiring memoir. A prize-winning, successful novelist in her 30s, McCracken was happy to be an itinerant writer and self-proclaimed spinster. But suddenly she fell in love, got married, and two years ago was living in a remote part of France, working on her novel...more
Hardcover, 186 pages
Published September 10th 2008 by Little, Brown and Company
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It's so hard to find the right words to describe this beautifully written poignant book. It sat on my to-read list for about a year and I put off reading it in large part because I became pregnant with my first child shortly after adding it to my list. (I didn't want to freak myself out) Then, when I lost my baby 4 days before his due date, it became an urgency to get my hands on it as if I could somehow procure the answers to my own situation by simply reading a book. I checked it out from a li...more
Rebecca Foster
When she was a teenager in Boston, McCracken was approached by a panhandler with a card reading I AM DEAF. She sympathizes with this tacit approach, thinking “surely when tragedy has struck you dumb, you should be given a stack of cards that explain it for you...This book, I am just thinking now, is that card” – a way of telling the world My first child was stillborn.

McCracken and her husband, a fellow writer and professor, had sojourned in Berlin, Ireland and England before settling into a rams...more
I can't remember the last time I cried at a book (and I mean real tears, not just a sentimental tingle in the back of my nose -- maybe "The Diary of Anne Frank" in junior high? "Where the Red Fern Grows"?)

Why this one? Now? (My sister just called and said, "Jesus, is everything okay?" All I could burble was: "Pudding.")

Perhaps it's because I've crossed paths with Elizabeth and Edward, and can see them both so clearly in mind, smoking on the porch of the Dey House. Perhaps it's because I love the...more
I read this book on a recommendation of a friend who is familiar with the fact that I have gone through a similar experience in my own life. I, too, have delivered a stillborn son. What is ironic is that I had ordered this book off of Amazon, and it was delivered (and I started reading it) the day before the anniversary of my son's birth/death. I think the author did a wonderful job of putting her grief into words. I related to so many things that she said, felt, and did. My heart was breaking f...more
A hard book to comment on, but I will say that I read it in one night/morning, as I suspect most people do who pick it up. Also: I would like to take all my lessons in how to handle maternal grief and anxiety (when/if I experience it) from a three-headed oracle of Rachel Zucker, Joan Didion, and Elizabeth McCracken. The three of them should replace Hallmark permanently.
A thin, beautiful, sad - but defiant - book about the loss of a baby. It begins with the flat warning: "Someone dies in this book. A baby." McCracken married her British husband in her late thirties and was thrilled to be living together in Bordeaux and pregnant with their first child (nicknamed Pudding.) Amidst the knocking on wood, the name games, and the well-wishes of friends and strangers, something goes very wrong and Pudding dies before birth. The book is written with a son finally born o...more
Deanna Roy
When I first picked this book up in 2008, I put it down again within a few pages. I was upset.

I too had lost a baby, three, in fact, and when McCracken called my wish for pictures a "fetish" and seemed to suggest I was wrong or strange for wanting footprints and memory boxes and any sort of artifact, I just couldn't read on.

But here, three years later, a new friend suggested I try it again. I'm glad I did, as once I was past that hurt, I could see McCracken had written a clear-eyed memoir, used...more
In An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, Elizabeth McCracken writes, sometimes in excruciating detail, about her experience giving birth to her first child, who was stillborn. It's both a hard book to read and a hard book to put down, and much more gripping than McCracken's fiction. It's not a book I'd give to a grieving mother who has just gone through the same experience, but maybe one I'd give to someone a few months later. She writes beautifully about the pregnancy, the birth, the...more
I read the excerpt of this in Oprah Magazine and it moved me more than anything I've read in a long, long time.


Okay, so yesterday when I was sick with a weird, spacey cold, I lay in bed and read this book. It's beautiful, and incredibly sad, and what happened to Elizabeth and Edward is terrible. This book is so honest...

I'm having a hard time writing this review, perhaps because the events in the book, both the awful and wonderful ones, feel too big to summarize or comment on.

Lisa Lieberman
I enjoyed this memoir, but the writer in me was always conscious of the choices McCracken was making, the analogies she chose to convey her pain, the timing of her revelations (like waiting until the very end, when she was going into labor with her second child, before telling us what she blamed herself for the most re: her first pregnancy). I appreciated her more, as a writer, for the choices she made; I could understand why she structured the book the way she did, why she withheld this informa...more
I am not a curmudgeon. I have several living children. As a man, anatomical constraints have established that none has been carried in my womb or delivered through my loins. I have never lost a child; I hope that I never do.

That being stated, writing about a devastatingly sad subject in a lyrical, emotionally honest, heartfelt, warm, sad, funny manner may make a great subject, and may elicit sympathy and empathy (those not being bad things at all), but does not necessarily make a great book. I a...more
I was surprised to see AN EXACT REPLICA... compared by a reviewer to THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING by Joan Didion: I can't think of two books which approach the same subject matter (the death of a loved one) more differently. Where Didion is most essentially writing about her own death--at least, the end of her family and context and relevance and time--McCracken is talking about trauma, a personal shame. Death is a whole different matter for old people than it is for young people.

Which probably...more
If you are one of those people who say "I'd read it but the subject matter is so DEPRESSING" well then move on, dear reader, I do not suffer your disease. Sometimes I worry that I find material on mourning and grief and loss so compelling. but this is the rawest of raw materials and it is usually authentic and that is what I appreciate.
This book has the added bonus of being beautifully, impeccably, stark.
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This book was a heartbreaking memoir about loss and life. There are no surprises here--McCracken tells you right up front that "a child dies in this book: a baby. A baby is stillborn," and then adds that a healthy baby is born in this book, too. I was riveted by the story, told in bits and pieces, moving backward and forward fairly fluidly, leaving holes that weren't filled until the end. The writing is stark and honest, yet poetic in its simplicity. It reminded me in so many ways of Joan Didion...more
Esme Pie
Hard to take the story of a still born child and make it anything but a devestating read. But somehow Elizabeth McCracken is able to do this. I actually laughed out loud several times. This reminded me a lot of 'The Year of Magical Thinking.' McCracken is a cool customer too. I thought it was very interesting. It's a memoir of a child who never existed except as a hope and as a thought for the future. How do you mourn that AND continue to go forward into a future you no longer trust. Very intere...more
"Grief lasts longer than sympathy, which is one of the tragedies of the grieving."

I listened to this memoir on audio. Then I listened to it again. It is moving and sad and beautiful, and I fear that any attempt to describe it here will sound at best morbid and at worst like a Lifetime movie. But McCracken's memoir about her experience giving birth to a still-born child is neither of these things. It is a thoughtful, carefully constructed narrative, a love letter to her husband, and the card she...more
I'd like to say from the onset that this review is coloured by my own experience. My second son, Lorenzo, was also stillborn in eerily similar circumstances as those of Pudding. Therefore, while my review may be useful for mothers who have lost babies, it may not be so for other readers. For those other readers, I will say that this is a wonderfully written, profound book about love and loss.

I understand that the author did not mean this to be a "self-help" book about coping with stillbirth, bu...more
Joie M
I wish I could give half stars on Goodreads--I'd easily give four-and-a-half.

Elizabeth McCracken's An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination is both devastating and funny; it's quirky, poignant, and a whole host of other adjectives that you might or might not expect to accurately describe a memoir about the experience of having had a stillborn child. I read about it recently in a glowing review from NPR, downloaded it immediately, and pretty much wolfed it down in a matter of hours.

Above a...more
I have to say, I do find it very hard to rate a memoir. How can you put a rating on someone´s experience? So, I am not sure what I gave the stars for. I think on a literary note (like the writing style), I thought this was fairly well written, while at times I liked and hated her raw style at the same time. I did love this book though because so much of the feelings she expressed, are the very things I have just felt and thought. I think she probably does an excellent job at honestly portraying...more
A.K. Klemm
I have never felt so awful as a human being as when I sat reading An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination knowing I’d be ‘reviewing’ it for a blog shortly after I finished. How do you justify that in your mind? ‘Reviewing’ something so personal, so devastating, so beautiful, so intense. As an avid reader, a constant reviewer, and one those people who presume to call themselves a writer though I’ve yet to have anything published, I felt like an inconsiderate intruder reading such an intim...more
do not read this book on the path train, do not read this book in the break room, do not read this book anywhere you don't want someone to see you cry. i love mccracken's writing, have since the first time i read the giant's house. i swear it's not just because she's a once-librarian. while reading this heartbreaking memoir of her first child's stillborn birth, you want to call her, you want to say the right thing, you want to marvel aloud how she found the right words to always say what she nee...more
George Saunders said in a recent interview that one of his goals as a writer (and as a person) was to 'really be able to step up to the beauties of life and the horrors of it, without any kind of flinching,' and in this beautiful memoir about the death of her first child, Elizabeth McCracken does just that. Like WAVE by Sonali Deraniyagala, and Emily Rapp's THE STILL POINT OF THE TURNING WORLD, this is a searing, world-cracked-open account of loss, but it is also strongly, profoundly, a book abo...more
Sitting here I'm finding it very difficult to review this book. The subject (the death and mourning of a stillborn baby) was obviously a tough one to get through, but I did find it very interesting. I found myself having such a connection with her experiences - not with exactly what she went through but even just in pregnancy and the expectations of having a baby alone. This book also gave me such insight on how a person in this situation (or others who have lost loved ones) feels and that how y...more
When an author writes this amazingly, I pretty much feel stupid writing anything in a critique. It has a sad subject matter (it's a memoir), but her treatment of it is so genius, that you are left uplifted and wiser as a result. Highly highly recommended.
I was going to start out by saying that this book isn't for everyone, but maybe, it should be for everyone. Specifically, it chronicles the author's life and first pregnancy leading up to the stillbirth of her son. It continues through to the birth of her second child. While I haven't had a stillbirth, I have suffered multiple miscarriages and have felt that I too was inaugurated into that secret society of loss and loneliness. This book offered me great, great comfort. Great, great comfort. It...more
elizabeth mccracken writes of how she wishes that she could have a card printed up, like the deaf people in the subway, that says "my baby died" so that she could just hand the cards out to people and they would understand without her having to talk about it. i borrowed this ebook from the library but now i want to run out to a bookstore and buy a physical copy and underline passages and use them as my own printed cards. almost the entire book resonated with me, and when i wasn't crying, i was n...more
One of the best books I've read this year.
It was liberating to read such a profound account of grief. And, all the hallmarks of grief are touched here, except denial and pity. I'm not exaggerating when I say that this book felt like a gift. Elizabeth McCracken pulls no punches here. She lost a child, delivered her baby, Pudding still-born days after the fact and it was terrible, but life goes on in its unyielding march forward.

McCracken refuses to pity herself or deny her loss. Her husbands loss. Her friends and family's loss... We all...more
Elevate Difference
In a time when many readers are wary of memoirs, Elizabeth McCracken's effort is at once refreshing, harrowing, brave and emotionally exhausting. An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination addresses every parent-to-be's worst fear: losing a baby. This is one of the most honest and courageous books I've read in years. Without sentiment or hyperbole, McCracken describes the journey in one crystal clear sentence: "This is the happiest story in the world with the saddest ending."

McCracken doesn...more
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Read by Theme: An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination 2 29 Nov 16, 2012 12:08AM  
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Elizabeth McCracken (born 1966) is an American author. She is married to the novelist Edward Carey, with whom she has two children - August George Carey Harvey and Matilda Libby Mary Harvey. An earlier child died before birth, an experience which formed the basis for McCracken's memoir, An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination.

McCracken, a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, was born in...more
More about Elizabeth McCracken...
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“As for me, I believe that if there's a God - and I am as neutral on the subject as is possible - then the most basic proof of His existence is black humor. What else explains it, that odd, reliable comfort that billows up at the worst moments, like a beautiful sunset woven out of the smoke over a bombed city.” 8 likes
“This is why you need everyone you know after a disaster, because there is not one right response. It's what paralyzes people around the grief-stricken, of course, the idea that there are right things to say and wrong things and it's better to say nothing than something clumsy.” 7 likes
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