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The Alchemy of Loss: A Young Widow's Transformation
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The Alchemy of Loss: A Young Widow's Transformation

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  152 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
Like A Year of Magical Thinking, this powerful and touching book is both an inspirational read and a comfort to those who are looking for help in overcoming loss.

The phone rang. It was my husband Arron telling me that he was at Windows of the World in the World Trade Center. “There’s been a bomb!” he said. I had been preparing my six-year-old daughter for her second day of
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 25th 2008 by McClelland & Stewart
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Community Reviews

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Leila Summers
May 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
I chose this book to read on 10 September 2012 without having any idea of the storyline at the time (I still don't know how to view the book details on my kindle, so I only see the title). I soon read that the author, Abigail Carter, had lost her husband in 9/11. As a widow of two young children myself, I found I related to this story in so many different ways. Though I don't see this as a story of transformation as the title suggests, Abigail writes about her long journey through shock, grief a ...more
Dec 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
September 11, 2001 changed Abigail Carter's life forever. In the space of one morning she became a widow, the single mother of two small children and she claimed an unwanted spot at the center of a national tragedy. Though she looked for a book that would tell her that her grief and rage were a natural part of the grieving process, she never found exactly what she was searching for.

Shortly after the second anniversary of 9/11 she sat down and started to write, pouring out the changing difficulti
May 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Alchemy of Loss is an amazing memoir by Abigail Carter about her husband passing away on 9/11. The book starts out with the actual day of 9/11, and she talks about how her husband called her telling her to call 9-11 but she was distracted and just wanted him off the phone. That was the last time she spoke to him. Then the story moves into the aftermath, and how she deals with the loss. One of the main focuses of the book is the balance between staying strong for her family and her two young ...more
Oct 13, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
Although Abigail Carter wrote this book as way to deal with the overwhelming grief she experienced after the death of her husband, Arron, in the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001, the book would be helpful for anyone who is or has experienced a sudden and terrible loss.

From back cover:

"Abigail Carter had it all - a full life with a successful career and a caring husband, and a beautiful young son and daughter. But when her husband died in the World Trade Center on September 11, 20
Archana Murthy
Dec 16, 2013 rated it liked it
This was a difficult read for me because of how raw and honest the writing was. I had to take a few breaks as I found myself welling up often while reading the first few chapters. It is very important for me to connect with at least one character/person in any book and I was completely charmed by Olivia. I was rooting for Olivia through the book and every time she appeared, she brought a smile to my face. The impact of 9/11 on families who lost their loved ones is wonderfully layered, reactions ...more
Book Bazaar
Jul 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
A searingly honest account of the devastation felt in a single family after 9/11. I don't usually read these kind of stories but i was given a copy by a rep and thought I'd try it out. I had tears welling up in the first few chapters as the devastation of losing her husband and being left with two small children slowly breaks over Abigail.

Occasionally i was irritated with her responses to things but as I thankfully have never been through something so awful, I have no real concept of how grief c
Feb 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I don't know quite what to say about this book. The subject matter - a young mother widowed in the wake of 9/11 - is a testament to not only the lives lost that day, but the lives left behind. Ms. Carter writes about her own evolution as a wife, a mother to two children who at the same time don't undertand and understand too much about that day, and a human being, through the principles of the book "After the Darkest Hour," about the spirtual transformation following tragedy. That she could open ...more
Sep 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
I really liked the way this book was written, it has a very catchy style that really rubs off on you. I'd find myself picking up the book and not wanting to put it down. However, whether from this or that, after I put down the book for a spell, I had a hard time finding the incentive to pick it back up again. While not an altogether happy book, I found it to be satisfying, and the ending left me feeling as if something intangible inside me had been resolved.
Leila Mandlsohn
Sep 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book, eloquently written and engaging. Abigail shares her story with raw emotion and honesty.
One of her goals was to write the book she hoped had been available to her when she needed it and in turn help others that may find themselves in a similar situation. In my opinion, she accomplished it! Her story has validated for me the emotional roller coaster that as a grieving widow with young children I face everyday.
Erika Nerdypants
Mar 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
I love writing that comes from the gut, that is unflinchingly honest, not trying to hide. Kudos to Carter for accomplishing that with "The Alchemy of Loss". Widowed young, she doesn't fall into the trap of portraying her husband who was killed in the 9/11 terrorist attack as perfect, and I appreciate that. Her journey along the continum of grief is eloquently described, and exposes her strengths as well as her weaknesses, which is after all what we are looking for in a memoir.
Oct 24, 2009 rated it liked it
So sad but so insightful and helpful for understanding the grief process in very pragmatic terms. While I am not an 9/11 widow, this book helped me to understand the ways I have been feeling in the last almost two years and how grief can take it toll on all aspects of your life, especially if you don't make room for it.
May 01, 2011 rated it liked it
I'm torn about reviewing this book. It was hard to get through, and at times I was very irritated with the cadence of Abigail Carter's writing and the way she portrayed almost everyone in her life. I can understand why this book was important for her to write and appreciate much of her journey, but I really struggled to connect with her.
Jan 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: thumbs-up
As a personal friend of the author, I found this to be a very insightful and raw glimpse into Abigail's process after learning of her husband's death in one of the twin towers on 9/11. I think it takes a lot of courage to write such a book, and I am sure that her writing this book has helped many people who grapple with grief, and especially a sudden death.
Aug 02, 2011 rated it liked it
It's very honest and emotional and hard to put down in a watching-a-car-crash kind of way. It was interesting to put a more human face to the 9/11 tragedy. I would recommend to those who enjoy biographies / memoirs or anyone who has suffered a major loss or is close to anyone who has.
May 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Young widows & widowers; those interested in the private, personal effects and legacy of 9/11
A memoir written by a young 9/11 widow, it covers both the first year of grief and up through four years (or so) after 9/11. See my detailed review here.
Jul 05, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didntfinish
So, I'm going to stop reading this. Yes, I am chickening out a little bit, but this book is SO SAD, and I've only read 3 chapters. I am sure it all turns out to be a beautiful experience for her in some way, but I'm checking out on this one.
Jun 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This one made me cry a lot, but in a good way. It was very well written and sad and hopeful at the same time. Job very well done, definitely recommend.
Jan 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
not your typical 9/11 story in that not only did abby write about her loss but how her feelings and her grief experience can inspire so many. beautiful and inspirational.
Jun 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
this is a story of a journey through widowhood even though i am sure none of you are widows it is still an interesting book becuase it is based on my family and ow my dad died. my mommy wrote it!
Dec 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
A brutally honest journey from sudden widowhood (9/11) to building a new life. It will ring true to anyone experiencing loss.
Aug 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Fifteen years coming up this week since September 9, 2001. Images cemented in our minds of airplanes flying into tall buildings, buildings simply crumbling into dust, obliterated, along with 3000 plus people, offices, desks, belongings, papers and all the other paraphernalia of 21st century living and working. For Abigail Carter, it was just another Tuesday, with her two young children, getting them sorted, her husband Arron off to the city for the day, to a trade show at Windows on the World in ...more
Apr 27, 2014 rated it liked it
I've been meaning to read this book because I'm part of writing circles that overlap with those of Abigail Carter here in Seattle. I still find it odd to read a book, particularly a memoir, by someone with whom there's an acquaintance, even when removed by a degree. In this case I know of Abby as an entrepreneur and co-founder of with Kelsye Nelson. The Alchemy of Loss not only chronicles her experience as what she refers to as a 9/11 widow but also as someone beginning to write.

Sandy Barnes
Very well-written story of a 911 widow. How arbitrary and violent the whole event was. Abby shares the anger she has with so many facets, the difficulties with raising two young children on her own. Though she does seem to have quite a bit of money. She eventually moves from New Jersey to Seattle. She'll talk to my memoir writing class this week.
Allison Ellis
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Nov 18, 2010
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Abigail Carter wrote The Alchemy of Loss: A Young Widow’s Transformation (HCI, 2008) as a form of catharsis after her husband’s death in the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001. Her work has also appeared in SELF magazine, Reader’s Digest Canada, and and she maintains blogs at and Abigail is also the co-Founder of, an o ...more
More about Abigail Carter