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The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  15,296 ratings  ·  2,156 reviews
An exquisite memoir about how to live--and love--every day with "death in the room," from poet Nina Riggs, mother of two young sons and the direct descendant of Ralph Waldo Emerson, in the tradition of When Breath Becomes Air.

"We are breathless, but we love the days. They are promises. They are the only way to walk from one night to the other."

Nina Riggs was just thirty-se
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 6th 2017 by Simon and Schuster
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Average rating 4.30  · 
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 ·  15,296 ratings  ·  2,156 reviews

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John Duberstein
Apr 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I would like to say my five star review is rooted in my own literary acumen and this particular book's compelling, beautiful, almost lyric prose. And the book is filled with beauty, lyric and profane. But since it was written by my wife, I feel like I have to come clean and say I'd be giving her five stars regardless, because I loved her more than anything. I love my kids a TON. They're amazing little guys, my favorite living people in the whole world, and I'd literally lay down in Boston traffi ...more
Drew Perry
Apr 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Nina Riggs was a dear friend and a writer so sharp and insistent and unflinching it made everyone who read her work feel like they might not be living quite hard enough. Here's why nobody ought to read a friend's review: we're all grieving her loss so intensely that nobody can see quite right any more. Here's why everybody ought to read this book anyway: Nina achieved something in the last year of her life that most of us only dream of, which is to say, she made something truly beautiful from th ...more
Elyse  Walters
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“Do they have book club in the afterlife?”

“I️ love you” ......
“I️ love you” ....
“I️ love you”..... “these are the things we say now after book club” .....
“Why didn’t we say them before?”

Nina Riggs was 38 years of age when she was diagnosed with incurable breast cancer.
This is the memoir she wrote before she died at the age of 39. It all started with one spot found on her breast. A dot!

Nina writes about having cancer - treatments -radioactive dye- bone scans- warm blankets - etc.- her family
A natural successor, or partner, to When Breath Becomes Air, with which it shares beautiful prose and a literary/philosophical approach to terminal cancer. It’s a wonderful book, so wry and honest, with a voice that reminds me of Anne Lamott and Elizabeth McCracken. (For a while there was a sweet epilogue to these real-life losses: Riggs’ widower and Paul Kalanithi’s widow were temporarily an item! See this article.)

It started with a tiny spot of cancer in the breast. “No one dies from one small
May 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
So. I was not prepared to collapse into this book like I did. My friends know I'm not a huge memoir fan and often I find books of this nature fall into the "pity me" category. But, oh, Nina Riggs. How you captured my interest and pulled me along with you!

Yes, this is a cancer book. Yes, it's sad and scary and, especially for mothers, frightening at times. Do not let that stop you from experiencing the gorgeous, unique prose from this bright, funny, marvelous woman. Often I felt as if the author
Samantha Mitchell
Jun 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Nina is diagnosed with breast cancer ("no one dies from one tiny spot"), and her disease later progresses to stage IV (in her lungs). This is her memoir on living with cancer, thoughts on death and dying, and comment on life. With my own Stage IV diagnosis, I thought it would be easy to find myself in Nina's story but for some reason I couldn't connect. I skimmed most of the last half. There were punishing moments where she brought me to tears (for example, when her husband wakes her in the nigh ...more
Jun 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Bright Hour: a Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs is the kind of book that is difficult to read, yet so beautifully rendered that one cannot help but be committed to it till the end. Nina Riggs, in her thirties, is diagnosed with breast cancer, a small tumour, which develops into a terminal disease within a year. Married to her best friend and mother to two young children, Nina’s strengths keep her going through good and bad. How can life be lived authentically when there is an end dat ...more
Kaytee Bole (glitteringeyes418 on Instagram)
I appreciated the conversational and honest writing style and the short, vignette-like chapters. What really took away from the book for me were the constant reminders to all of us that she was a descendant of Ralph Waldo Emerson as well as frequently bringing up the philosopher Montaigne. A little excerpt here and there would have been fine, but here it felt excessive.
Maureen L.
Oct 31, 2017 rated it did not like it
I didn’t like this book. Do you know how our brains leap around from thought to thought, much like monkeys in a tree randomly jump from branch to branch? Well, this book felt similarly jumbled and chaotic, a bunch of random incidents, thoughts, memories, experiences, leaping here, there and everywhere. The whole book, with all of its many sentence fragments, seemed thrown together in an incoherent, fragmented mish-mash held tenuously together by the thread of the progression of her illness.

I al
☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
That was grief, I say to myself. It makes us dark and a little crazy. (c)
Jan 31, 2018 rated it liked it
I always feel a little strange giving stars to memoirs -- it's like you're grading someone's life. And then when the memoir is about them dying, it's even worse -- how can you give a bad grade to someone who's dead? But this book has very high marks from a lot of other people, so my average grade is not going to make much difference overall. In a week where I had suffered considerable loss, it was time to read this book. And while I don't regret it, I was nonetheless disappointed.

There are some
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it

I would like to thank Simon & Schuster Canada for the ARC of this book.

I was impressed it was in Hardcover. I loved the cream coloured jacket with what looked like bath bombs that you can get from Lush.

This is a terrific memoir with a very strong start. The chapters are small. In some instances they are just a paragraph.

The book is divided into 4 stages .. the same way cancer is categorized.

Nina Riggs takes us on a journey into her life.. her past and her present and her hopes for the future
Text Publishing
‘Often funny and absurd, The Bright Hour is about sitting with your own mortality, and the idea of your life coming to an end always being in the room with you…Nina reminds us not to waste time under the covers and instead get out there and make the most of it.’

‘This haunting memoir leads the reader into the innermost chambers of the writer’s life: into the mind and heart, the work and home and family of a young woman alternately seeking to make peace with, and raging against, the realit
Canadian Reader
Former director of palliative care at a large hospital in Toronto, author/speaker/teacher Stephen Jenkinson has commented that people die as they live. There may be no dramatic revelations or reckonings, no great wisdom about life to dispense . . .
Therein lies the problem with this memoir—at least, the problem for me. Nina Riggs was relatively young—not quite forty—when she died. In this there is sadness, of course, but the observations, the conversations, the circumstances (that form the conte
Renee (itsbooktalk)
Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
You can find all my reviews at

I love everything about the very long blurb; I think it tells you all you need to know in terms of what this book is about. And Nina's writing absolutely delivered on sharing with us her very poignant, thought provoking, often laugh out loud funny answers to every single question listed in that blurb. Now that you've read the blurb and know what this phenomenal book is about, let me attempt to share with you why I loved it so much. I only hope I
Mar 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
All of the highest praise for this gorgeous, wise, profound, essential book. A million stars.
I debated with myself for several days over whether I would write a review of The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs, when I knew my review would be less than glowingly positive, as so many reviews I've read have been. I was hesitant, for one, because I didn't want to come across as callously unsympathetic to the story of a woman who was courageous enough to tell the poignant story of her suffering through the throes of cancer and chemotherapy, and all while raising her two children, being a devoted wife ...more
Yelda Basar Moers
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Nina Riggs was the great-great-great granddaughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the beloved, brilliant Transcendentalist poet and essayist whose work I adore. Nina was a poet herself and a lover of books. At the young age of 37 when she was a mother to boys the same age as my two boys-- 5 and 8-- she received a breast cancer diagnosis (a fate that many mothers with young children these days are facing). It seemed quite treatable at first, however the disease progressed, became terminal, and at the ag ...more
Aug 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful, moving and surprisingly laugh out loud funny at times. And Heartbreaking, so heartbreaking. Ugh.
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017, memoir
What to say about this stunning, heartbreaking memoir that could ever do it justice? The author is diagnosed with terminal cancer the same year that her beloved mother dies AND her son is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Any one of these things could be a memoir on its own. Also, the author was a poet by trade, and this is stark and beautiful and evocative and devastating in the way good poetry can be. I sobbed throughout, and some of the most gripping moments aren't directly about the author's i ...more
Feb 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is the most gorgeous memoir I've ever read, and a primer on how to live life fully, honestly, and courageously, no matter how much time we have left. Here are some of my favorite passages:

"And there it is: The beautiful, vibrant, living world goes on."

"I'm terrified. I'm fine. The world is changed and exactly as before."

"These days, these are my people--the Feeling Pretty Poorlies--but I haven't really seen us as we are in a long time."

"'I want all of it--all the things to do with living--a
Sherri Thacker
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow. What a beautifully written book! She was a true fighter!!
Sue Gerhardt Griffiths
Jun 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaway, 2017
A beautifully written memoir that reads like a long gorgeous lyrical poem. I was immediately drawn to Nina Riggs’s words - they touched me in ways I can’t begin to explain.
At first I wasn’t sure how I’d feel reading a memoir about a person with cancer and why I even chose to enter the giveaway, watching my dad the last few weeks lose a little bit of life each day to this most disgusting of diseases, did I really want to read more details about the big C? However, Nina Riggs’s story, her beautifu
Barbara (The Bibliophage)
Nina Riggs wrote The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying as she was being treated for stage four breast cancer, the kind that’s become only treatable, not curable. During the same time, Nina was saying goodbye to her mother, who had the same disease and prognosis. That gives you an idea of what to expect from this book.

But expectations are only part of reality, and Riggs finds many bright and funny spots in the everyday moments of her life. She and her husband are parenting two young boys,
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Is it weird to have someone else's memoir as your favorite book?!?! Because this is one of my favorite books and ABSOLUTELY one of the most beautiful books I've ever read. I've been ruminating on it for days and still don't know how to review it other to say that you need to read it. The clarity and grace that Riggs provides is a gift to us all. ...more
Liza Fireman
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Nina Riggs at the age of 38 was diagnosed with a breast cancer, the treatment it for became metastatic and incurable. That was only a few months only after her mother died from cancer. This book is so so sad, and so amazing. And so sad.
When Breath Becomes Air gave a different perspective, this one is a lot more personal, a lot more touching, and is even better written than When Breath Becomes Air. I recommend to read both.

“Dying isn’t the end of the world,” my mother liked to joke after she was
May 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won this memoir from Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review. This memoir was written by Nina Riggs, who like many other members of her family, contracted cancer. This memoir is written over the four stages of her disease which started as breast cancer, expanded to spinal lesions and ultimately lung. She died on February 23, 2017.
The memoir is written similar to the form of a diary. Nina takes the reader on the journey of her mother's death from cancer, her marriage to John Duberste
Emma Sea
Jul 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pn-library, death
gorgeous. devoured it in half a day.
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio-book
What a beautifully written memoir, albeit very sad. I knew that coming in, of course, but I wanted to read (actually listen) to this (audio)book, as I lost a dear friend to metastatic breast cancer a few years ago, and I felt like I needed to understand more of her experience. In my friend's case, she left behind four children, who were now parentless, as her husband/their father had died of colon cancer during the time her breast cancer was in remission. Unbelievable for a family to have both p ...more
Mar 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Nina Riggs began her blog Suspicious Country (which morphed into this book) after being dx with breast cancer at age 37. Beautifully written, much like poetry, but with a narrative that no one wants to experience. She is very present in the moment, appreciating life even during the scariest of moments. Nina is a descendant of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and it comes through in this book. How to live in the present with a death sentence looming over oneself? How to live each day, not worried about tomor ...more
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