It’s the kind of book any writer wishes they could have written but is eternally grateful they couldn’t. Nina Riggs and I had a lot in common- we share a literary agent (the phenomenal Brettne Bloom), published at the same imprint (Simon & Schuster), both the mother of boys and an affinity for self-diagnosing via WebMD. She seemed like the kind of woman I would have loved to have shared a cocktail (or four) with on a sunny June night, talking about motherhood, writing, dogs, wine…anything and everything. But for some cruel reason, Nina was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at the age of 37 and that friendship will never happen. Nina passed away last month, just shy of seeing her memoir, The Bright Hour, being published to rave reviews tomorrow June 6th. And so other authors, like me, are hoping to take on a small part of promoting this book for her, in honor of her, to make sure the brightest of lights shines on her talent.
Nina had the painful and poignant experience of writing about dying in a way that I never could have- with humor, exquisite clarity, bravery and levelheadedness. Her book is a masterpiece. I was sitting with our agent at a Manhattan bar when she got the final bid on Nina’s manuscript and got to call her and tell her the amazing news that no doubt helped alleviate some worry for her financially. She kept telling me how much I was going to love this book, how much I would love Nina, how important this book is. And she was right. About all of it. It’s hard to make sense of it, but somehow I found myself looking forward to getting into bed and reading this book about a dying mother every night. How is that possible? Because Nina made this book about LIFE really, not death. She wrote about her excruciatingly unfair diagnosis with such levity (and even laugh out loud humor) that I found it uplifting instead of soul-crushingly sad. I think that was her goal- a lofty one for sure, as how does one write about dying young in a “light” way??? But her extraordinary talent allowed her to. I saw so much of myself in her, and also qualities of the woman I hope I can become someday.
The lessons, the deep stuff- it’s all there. The reminders to value every moment of your life, even the shitty ones- that you take away for sure. But upon closing the back cover, you also take a way a feeling of boldness and light instead of despair. And looking at pictures of Nina, or reading her amazing Modern Love column that garnered so much attention, you can see it in her eyes and words- she was a woman who radiated love and positivity, even during her darkest moments.
“We are breathless, but we love the days. They are promises. They are the only way to walk from one night to the other.”
I really wish I could have met Nina. She was clearly a very special person. But I am so glad she left us all with this book, this gift, really. Especially for her two sons, who miss her with every ounce of their beings and will forever. She was a magnificent mother. And writer. And human. And you all need to read this book.
So today, I get to give away five copies (open to US residents only) of The Bright Hour thanks to Simon & Schuster. Leave a comment below and I will pick the winners randomly tomorrow morning and e-mail them directly. For all of you who do not win, you can buy the book here or pick it up at your local bookstore. Lets make The Bright Hour a rousing, NY Times Bestselling success and spread the love and light that Nina shared as far as we can.