A hybrid memoir and valentine to her firstborn, Letdown pieces together the story of a woman whose fertility issues arise at the same time the diagnosis of her son’s autism complicates motherhood in unexpected ways—portraying the transcendence found amidst difficulty.
With Letdown, Sonia Greenfield proves herself a master of the prose poem, finding just the right metaphor, just the right syntax. This book-length sequence reads like a love story between a mother and her son, and like all love stories—all the true ones, anyway—there is pain alongside the joy. Greenfield takes us down into the dark, confronting what it is to feel helpless against your child’s suffering, to mother a child with special needs, to recalibrate one’s life after loss. But she also leads us back into bright California sunlight, where we find the boy—and this messy life—rising from the depths, ‘buoyant, better than expected.’
—Maggie Smith, author of Good Bones
Beautifully constructed in sixty stand-alone parts, this book-length poem presents—artfully, honestly—a woman’s difficult parsing of motherhood. We first meet her in the hospital suite, the careful birth-plan abandoned, as it was as effective as ‘closing a sliding door on a tsunami.’ Later, we follow her confusion and terror through her son’s autism diagnosis; during the EEG test, she distracts him as wires are gelled to his head, saying, ‘Look, now you get to become a robot.’ Her son’s traumatic medical journey is detailed alongside her hidden trauma, fertility loss. Sonia Greenfield has used her excellent ear and metaphorical power to create a moving and necessary book.
—Beth Ann Fennelly, author of Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs
I’m undone by this book, by Greenfield’s vision with which she can somehow see my life. Letdown broke my heart with its beauty (but beauty is merely its mode, not its destination)—rather, it broke beauty with its heart. Greenfield’s sensory precision is painful to read, her honesty every bit as brutal as reality, but delivered in deep, clear lyric. This book might know you, the real you, at the precise moment you think no one could ever understand. This poet knows how to live life powerfully enough to be broken by pain, by love. She knows that’s how much true connection costs: everything. Her book sings life’s essence even though there’s no possible song full enough to hold it. Somehow, she fills it; she holds us.
—Brenda Shaughnessy, author of The Octopus Museum