Picks and Pans Review: The Goldfish Went on Vacation

updated 01/22/2007 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/22/2007 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Patty Dann



After parking the family car one day in April 1999, Dann asked her 48-year-old husband, Willem, with whom she had adopted a son, Jake, three years before, "Should we get the car seat?" Willem's reply—"What's a car seat?"—was the first sign of the aggressive brain tumor that would rob him of speech, memory and movement before ending his life in August 2000. In this slim, affecting memoir, Dann chronicles Willem's quick decline and her own struggle to help 4-year-old Jake deal with losing his dad. No goldfish-went-on-vacation euphemizer, she opts for straight talk while allowing Jake his talismans—Band-Aids plastered on his toy trucks, beach glass arranged in an intricate pattern on his parents' bed. When Willem dies at home in Manhattan, Jake is with him and covers his face in kisses. "Now we're two," he whispers to his mother. Dann brings home the enormity of their loss, but you get the feeling they're two who, together, will survive just fine.

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