Kayak Mourning

Kayak Mourning

Kayak Mourning

Rosenblatt, Roger





“There is indeed life after death, and Rosenblatt proves that without a doubt.” —USA Today From Roger Rosenblatt, the bestselling author of Making Toast and Unless It Moves the Human Heart, comes a poignant meditation on the nature of grief, the passages through it, the solace of solitude, and the healing power of love. Rosenblatt’s Kayak Morning is a classic in the making, akin to A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis—a coming to terms with tragic, senseless loss that offers readers an unsentimental and deeply moving account of the possibility of true redemption. A profoundly beautiful and intimate gift from an exceptional writer, Kayak Morning is Roger Rosenblatt writing bravely and unforgettably from the heart.



Roger Rosenblatt’s Kayak Morning: reflections on love, grief, and small boats mirrors the structure of grief itself: nonlinear; highlighting times of confusion, searching, yearning, aching, and love; full of small revelations that prove useful; and forming a space we dip into and out of, as the kayak paddle enters the water and rises again. Do not come to this book expecting either a how-to manual about dealing with grief or a straightforward narrative. Unlike Making Toast, Rosenblatt’s earlier work about surviving the loss of his daughter, Kayak Morning is not a story, per se. Do, however, enter this book to gain a deeper understanding of grief and the spiritual struggles that it ushers in. Read it like a meditation, loosely stitched out of nature and insight about the nature of death and continuance. You might also read it as a kind of permission to explore your own relationship with loss and finality, topics we often avoid.

The book begins, “Two and a half years after our thirty-eight-year-old daughter, Amy, died of an undetected anomalous right coronary artery, I have taken up kayaking.” Rosenblatt weaves his reflections on love and grief via the thread of his experiences in the kayak, surrounded by nature. Throughout Kayak Morning, he takes on the challenge of creating a future story that includes some kind of hope.

As a seminarian studying grief dynamics, and one who has recently suffered the deaths of family members and friends, I appreciate Kayak Morning’s honesty. Grief cannot boast clearly demarcated stages. Nor can it be, through work or blessing, magically eliminated. It is immoderate, a disheveling of the psyche, arriving unpredictably, in ways that are as individual as we are. Read more…


Two and a half years after the death of his daughter, Amy, author and essayist Rosenblatt still found himself lost in grief and anger. He took to his kayak in search of peace and found a way to ponder grief, if not lose it. Rosenblatt is poetic in remembrances from his career and personal life—many of Amy as child, as wife, as mother, as healer. He offers small observations on life and waterways and the careful navigation of both. The quiet moments on Penniman’s Creek lend themselves to recollections of literary allusions, as do the more perilous or spectacular adventures on water in Rwanda, Latvia, Galápagos, and Wyoming. Mostly, he struggles with his anger and longing for Amy as he copes with grief, admitting that writing Making Toast (2010) offered only temporary relief. Skeptical of the solace others offer in beliefs in the afterlife, he finds solace instead in quiet mornings alone in the kayak, drifting in the creek and coming to terms with the fact that Amy lives in his love of her. A beautiful contemplation on love and grief. –Vanessa Bush


I chose to read this because I enjoy the ocean, and the thought of relating a loss to experiences on the water intrigued me. I’m also a Stony Brook alum, and the author teaches there. It was not what I initially expected. I thought more of the book would relate directly to a kayak ride on the creek, but that was the minor part of the book. In retrospect, there’s really not “enough” about a kayak ride with which to fill an entire book. Much of the book covered the author’s other thoughts based on his musings and significant life experiences. I was thinking, what do those things have to do with the loss of his daughter? Eventually, I realized that it was his way of affirming the other parts of his life and of the greater world so he can begin to put his loss in perspective, as everyone must eventually do. It’s an easy but interesting read, so there’s no risk in picking it up if you’re undecided. He ends the book back on topic, with two pages that are difficult to make it through dry-eyed.

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I have long been a fan of Roger Rosenblatt’s reflective writing. Back when he wrote a regular column for Time magazine, I would turn to the back of the magazine first to read him before any of the headline news. His “Man in the Water” essay is up there with Annie Dillard and Emerson in my book. So I have followed his recent career and read an excerpt from Making Toast, the book he wrote following his 38 year old daughter’s unexpected death, that was printed in the New York Times. In Kayak Morning, Rosenblatt describes the cloak of grief and meditates about the business of keeping afloat among the living which he is achieving through excursions in a kayak he bought and has learned to paddle recently. My husband and I bought each other kayaks when we were married. I understand the balance metaphor that Rosenblatt is using in this lovely, little book. Like a paddle in shallow water, his narrative dips into passages of poetry, memories of stories from war zones he covered in his reporting, and daily reflections. This book should be a gift for any dear friend who loses a love one – or a reminder to the those not enveloped in grief that loss comes without invitation and lingers like a wind on rough water.

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