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The Light of the World

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  7,795 ratings  ·  1,102 reviews
In The Light of the World, Elizabeth Alexander finds herself at an existential crossroads after the sudden death of her husband. Channeling her poetic sensibilities into a rich, lucid prose, Alexander tells a love story that is, itself, a story of loss. As she reflects on the beauty of her married life, the trauma resulting from her husband's death, and the solace found in ...more
Hardcover, 209 pages
Published April 21st 2015 by Grand Central Publishing (first published April 14th 2015)
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 ·  7,795 ratings  ·  1,102 reviews


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Elyse  Walters
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This makes the 3rd book about marriage that I've read in the past two weeks.
The difference is this is a NON FICTION story.

Elizabeth Alexander wrote a memoir about her marriage and the sudden death of her husband. I can't think of any other 'love-story-memoir', that has moved me more than this book!!!!!! NONE!!!

THIS IS A GORGEOUS LOVE STORY!!!! To me.... If there is such a thing as a flawless - marriage- and I don't think it's possible - the marriage between Elizabeth Alexander and her husband
...more
Rowena
Jun 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
“I’m grateful for the tug of the day that gets us out of bed and propels us into our lives and responsibilities; memory can be a weight on that. And yet, in it floods, brought willfully, or brought on by a glimpse, a glance, a scent, a sound.”- Elizabeth Alexander, The Light of the World

This was a sensitive and very touching look into Elizabeth Alexander’s life, losing her beloved husband, Ficre Ghebreyesus, very suddenly at a relatively young age. Recently I read Roland Barthes’ beautiful “Mo
...more
Sue
Elizabeth Alexander met Ficre Ghebreyesus in New York City. He of the shaved head, the amazing recipes (he was a chef as well as an artist), they fell in love quickly and stayed in love and involved throughout their marriage. It appears to have been a marriage of spirits, souls, bodies and minds. Alexander, called Lizzie by her husband, was born and raised in the United States, a writer, a poet, a teacher. Ficre was from Eritrea; he was sent away by his family so he would not be fodder for a war ...more
Diane S ☔
Mar 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
I'm not a big personal memoir reader, generally I end up, thinking of them as pity memoirs but this book proves me wrong. When Ficre, Elizabeth's husband dies unexpectedly of a heart attack, Elizabeth must find a way to come to terms with her heart ache and grief. This is a beautiful testament to love, friendship, fatherhood, beginnings and endings, what a wonderful testament to a love that will never be forgotten even as her and her son's lives must go on.

ARC from publisher.
Rebecca
My nonfiction book of the year. I read a lot of memoirs about illness and death, perhaps because I feel they get me closer to the heart of what matters in life. Especially after my sister lost her husband earlier this year, I have been returning to bereavement memoirs as I think about books that might be therapeutic for her. If you enjoyed Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, this is a great follow-up. It joins Heaven’s Coast by Mark Doty, The Iceberg by Marion Coutts, and To Trave ...more
ij
May 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a beautifully memoir, written by Elizabeth Alexander. Alexander (Lizzy) is a poet and is the Thomas E. Donnelley Professor of African American Studies, at Yale University.

The memoir is a love story about Lizzy’s time spent with her husband Ficre Ghebreyesus and the subsequent months after his death. Ficre an immigrant from Eritrea was a painter and restaurant chef/ owner).

The memoir provides an intimate view of their courtship and marriage. We see their parents, family, friends, coworker
...more
Trish
Jan 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It is said the way to deal with loss is to remember. Alexander chooses the most gorgeous memories in her elegy for her husband Ficre, like a bowl of blowsy, fragrant roses or a rarely-blooming South African bonsai covered in pink blossoms that exude a sweet perfume. The unusual capacity of both artists to see beauty and possibility in the world gave them loving friends that each of them gathered about themselves and cherished for one another. They lived a life of such richness and beauty that th ...more
Barbara
Feb 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Have I been reading for 67 years just to get to this perfect book? Can it be possible that a poet who professes no religion can write something so sacramental? Will I hold this as close to my heart as a personal blessing? And may I please give this a thousand thousand stars, as it has illuminated my spirit to such a degree?
Joshunda Sanders
Dec 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It is easy to want in a love story only light and beauty, but what Elizabeth Alexander achieves with her memoir is a deep, graceful and concise reminder that with great love comes an inevitably great loss. It is not all dark, nor is it easy or convenient, but even grief contains beauty. And it is a natural response to loving someone tenderly to feel such darkness and pain when they have physically died. The Light of the World is heartbreaking in a way that is also evocative; intimate, raw and lo ...more
Robert Blumenthal
Oct 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Elizabeth Alexander is the wonderful African American poet who read one of her poems at the Inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009. Three years later, her beloved husband Ficre died suddenly from a heart attack. This book is a recounting of their life together and how she and her two sons coped with the tragedy and loss. This memoir is brief and very, very poetic. It is heartfelt and very wise and was uplifting and achingly moving at various times. In addition, the reader really gets to know the c ...more
Allison Shifman Chartier
Alexander's love for her husband was so deep and she expressed it so beautifully. That said, at points I found the book uncomfortably intimate - like I was reading someone's disconnected journal entries. The book read like a series of missives and not like a unified narration. This bothered me. I was also put off by how perfect she and Ficre's lives were before his death. It left me feeling like it wasn't truthful, like something was missing from the picture, but then feeling awful and guilt rid ...more
Conor Ahern
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
This heartbreaking memoir of finding and then losing a soulmate was achingly beautiful.
Deyanne
Jun 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Deyanne by: Rowena
Shelves: memoir, favorites
This is a profoundly moving elegy to a remarkable man shared by his gifted, sensitive wife (and esteemed poet). Immediately after finishing this gem, I wrote my thoughts on a legal pad. When I find that, I will complete my review. In the meantime, I want to remember a few seminal passages:

His full name, Ficremariam Ghebreyesus, means "lover of Mary" and "servant of Jesus." The abbreviated "Ficre", as he was called, means "love." p. 8

But his relationship to language also said everything about h
...more
Shari McCullough
Apr 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I am sooo grateful to have seen Elizabeth Alexander interviewed on the Morning Joe program last week. If I had not heard of this book I would have been robbed of a sublime gift. Her book is a must read for anyone who has ever experienced a profound love. And also a profound loss. I admit that I did sob tears of grief at times. But the story of her husband, and their sons, and their love was uplifting. And the awareness of beauty in so many aspects of life is inspiring. I think I am a great appre ...more
Ginger
Oh this was beautiful. It will make you appreciate love. And life. And beauty. Even though the topic is sad, it effuses joy. The author is a poet, which is obvious in the gorgeous language.

I wanted to be their friends. Her husband was from a small war-torn country in East Africa, so there were small echoes of the African-American experience throughout. Both were artists (his paintings are on the cover). Their community sounds like a sparkling, colorful family filled with food and art and poetry.
...more
Bonnie Brody
Jan 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It is not often that I read a book as beautiful and powerful as 'The Light of the World'. Written by the poet Elizabeth Alexander, it is an homage to her beloved husband Ficre who died suddenly at the age of 50. Theirs was a strong love, recognized at first sight and forged through a shared love of art, food, language, and family.

Ficre is an Eritrean who has lived a life of suffering and change, his resilience the shining light that has seen him through wartime and his plight as a refugee. He tr
...more
BookOfCinz

“She wrote that travellers should always commit the “charming, hopeful, irrational” act of
buying a lottery ticket in new countries. She called it “buy[ing] a chance.” It will make you feel lucky, as if
anything could happen, even when “you know you will not be there for the drawing.”

I am a huge fan of memoirs, I love reading about people’s personal experiences. I usually read memoirs to see what the person had to go through and how they went through it. Words fail to describe how beautiful and he
...more
Dean
Apr 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Elizabeth Alexander's "The light of the world" is by far, one of the most engaging and fetching books I have ever read, also heavy loaded with a diversity of powerful emotions, and at the same time a meaningful, truthful and honest memoir !!!
"The light of the world" deals with loss, how to cope with, and the pain it involves!!!
Elizabeth Alexander's narration is anoint and dropping, even saturated and also I will say clothed with a pregnancy which will give light to the beautiful scent of poetic
...more
Lucille Zimmerman
Feb 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This may be the most beautiful book I've ever read. I didn't read it, quite, I listened on audio.

Imagine what you'd get if you crossed two artistic people later in life. Ficre, an Eritrean chef and artist who'd survived civil war in Africa, and Elizabeth, an acclaimed poet and Yale professor.

Now mix in all the colors, trips, flavors, wildlife, stories, friendships, they experienced when their two paths crossed later in life.

Imagine it erudite, imagine it simple.

Imagine quotidian life. Imagin
...more
Ammara Abid
Apr 24, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: recently-added
The book was good, nicely written but I didn't connect with it emotionally. For me it's a memoir with all good memories having a perfect life & everything was going in a flow. But it shouldn't be after the death of Ficre (her husband) that's what I thought. I should wept at the death of her husband the man of her life, most perfect and ideal person but I didn't drop a single tear. It's not about my tears but those pages were written so calmly with very few sentiments.
Might be her life was actua
...more
Jeanette
Sep 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
This memoir emotes love and joy for the years that Elizabeth was married. It reflects her husband in every aspect of his own self-identity and what roles he played. She's like a prism that reflects him outward. The reader knows him. And amidst grief and longing for him still, and despite it- her joy at being his wife and their times together predominate it all. Loving and eloquent tribute as only a poetic core with a positive self-identity and purpose can produce.
Jennifer
Mar 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
This memoir reminded me of Joan Didion's A Year of Magical Thinking. A sudden loss felt so powerfully. I haven't read Magical Thinking in a while (and want to re-read) but appreciated how Alexander described so poetically the companionship felt between husband and wife. What a gift for her sons to read such loving words. And instructive for all on the practice of living each day with gratitude and presence.
Les
May 14, 2015 added it
Transportive and exquisite, as is often the case when great poets express themselves through prose. I picked up this book thinking it was a tragic love story, but it was just a beautiful one. This book made me cry and want to write. Alexander brought her husband back to life, as I imagine she does every day. This is not a requiem; it is an ode of a beloved and high order.
Sarah
Feb 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Every once in a great while I read a book that realigns my life- this is one of those books. Alexander's prose and insights are deep and hopeful. A true love story. She reads the audio- probably my favorite audible ever.
Gretchen Rubin
This memoir of deep love and early loss reminded me of Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. (Personal note: I realized that the author's brother was my TA (teaching assistant) in law school.)
Renee
Apr 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
This is a beautiful memoir. So many reviews tell the story of this memoir, so I won't. But what I will say is that the love/marriage/family life that the author shared with her husband is almost fairy tale. Their love was so beautiful and their life together so golden, and I'm not sure if that's because she's looking back and remembers it only that way, or if it truly was that way. Certainly the years before their marriage and family life were not without suffering and struggle. (The author's hu ...more
Wayne
Aug 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful, full-hearted memoir about love and loss and art and lots of other things that matter by one of my favorite poets. Elizabeth Alexander, an accomplished poet who composed and delivered the inaugural poem for President Obama's 2009 inauguration, tells a profound story of love and loss, death and rebirth, in this amazing, small book. Her husband, an Eritrean immigrant/scholar/chef/painter/multilinguist of a multitude of talents and facets died suddenly, leaving Alexander and their small ...more
Laura Fairly
Apr 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
The Light of the World is a poet's experience of her husband's unexpected death. While this book is full of grief, I found it to be more than anything a profound, raw celebration of life. It is an ode to a man, but Alexander also speaks to everything that is beautiful in each of our lives: the taste of coffee, the presence of flowers in our homes, what we make with our hands. This is a devastating, life-changing memoir. And I don't really even like memoirs.
Nakia
“When we first met, we told each other about every single lover, every crush, every assignation, every heartbreak. When I told him about the one I loved most before him, who came after disastrous heartbreak, he says, ‘Bless him for loving you when you needed it, for healing you, and for preparing you for me.’ … Then we could begin something new.”

The Light of the World is Elizabeth Alexander's beautifully written, but heart wrenching memoir about the life and love of her husband. Many books talk
...more
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Elizabeth Alexander is a Quantrell Award-winning American poet, essayist, playwright, university professor, and scholar of African-American literature and culture. She teaches English language/literature, African-American literature, and gender studies at Yale University. Alexander was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard during the 2007-08 academic year.

Alexander's po
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“The story seems to begin with catastrophe but in fact began earlier and is not a tragedy but rather a love story. Perhaps tragedies are only tragedies in the presence of love, which confers meaning to loss. Loss is not felt in the absence of love.” 23 likes
“Art replaces the light that is lost when the day fades, the moment passes, the evanescent extraordinary makes its quicksilver. Art tries to capture that which we know leaves us, as we move in and out of each other’s lives, as we all must eventually leave this earth. Great artists know that shadow, work always against the dying light, but always knowing that the day brings new light and that the ocean which washes away all traces on the sand leaves us a new canvas with each wave.” 11 likes
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