(Kevin Young reads tonight at the Hugo House at 7:30 pm. The reading is free.)
I've read plenty of books about grief and about coming through grief in my life, but I've never before encountered a book that gets it as right as Kevin Young's Book of Hours (Alfred A. Knopf, $26.95). Just shy of 200 pages, it's long for a book of poetry but too short to be a novel. It's one of those rare reading experiences that I recognized, even as I read it, as a book I was going to buy over and over again, to give as a gift to friends who've had that certain hole cut out of them, the loss that you can recognize from a distance, even in the happiest of times.
The most accurate way I can describe Book of Hours to you is as a document of grief, but that makes it sound dark, gothy, brooding, something overwrought, and that's not an accurate or fair description. Instead, it's more of a howl, an inside-out yawp from a wounded animal that will stick with you forever. Book of Hours opens with an array of poems, in mostly chronological order, documenting Young's life, from the time he first discovers his father's death in a hunting accident to the point when his father's death becomes history to him, a stone sarcophagus in the middle of every room he visits, unchangeable and looming, a part of the scenery.