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Book Review

'Light Of The World' Is A Portrait Of Love, Life And Loss


The Light of the World: A Memoir is an elegant book by Elizabeth Alexander, a poet, mother and widow. Her husband of 16 years was found dead next to their treadmill, just after his 50th birthday. The multiple blocked arteries that caused a massive heart attack had gone undetected by medical tests.

Ficre was a big, vital man, an artist and chef from Eritrea who loved life and people and had seen his share of poverty and civil war. Alexander grew up Episcopalian in Harlem, was educated at the best schools and became a brilliant poet. Ficre emigrated from an east African country that was once an Italian colony and is veiled in iconographic murals from the orthodox Christian and Islamic traditions.

Their love is passionate—for their art, their community, their life, their family and each other. His death is devastating.

Alexander portrays the particular energy radiating from their home in New Haven. She lures us into the intimacy of their home, saying that, "Sometimes in the morning as he finished a dream he would speak in Tigrinya as he began to wake. The boys have seen this when they would come to kiss him in the morning. How we loved when it happened! We'd stay very quiet in hopes the language would continue. He'd soon open his eyes, find us close to his face, and laugh a slurry, sleepy, awakening laugh."

Light of the World is a celebration of life, a portrait of grief, and a lesson in the healing power of memory.