Ten Minutes From Home by Beth Greenfield has been one of those memoirs I have not been able to put down, despite the fact that Greenfield's main focus is the loss of her brother and best friend to a drunk driver - an event that devastated her parents and changed their lives forever.
In 1982 Beth was just twelve and looking forward to junior high with her friend, Kristin. Spending summer days on the beach, shopping for "cool" clothes, and keeping up with the latest fads took up most of Beth's time. Kristin came along with Beth and her family to Beth's ballet dress rehearsal. Stopping on the way home to have icecream, everyone is happy, anticipating blissful summer days, when just ten minutes from home a drunk driver hits their station wagon. Beth is able to remember specific details about some aspects of the accident, while others are hazy. Her father is pinned beneath the steering wheel, gasping for breath. Her brother lies face down in the station wagon's back, and Beth's foot hurts, yet it is the blood covering her that garners attention from the people there assisting. Beth is able calmly explain that the blood is not hers, it is her best friend, Kristin's.
As anyone can imagine, the tragedy that happened to the Greenfields and also to Kristin's family was devastating. Beth tells the story from her perspective, how it felt for her to lose her best friend and brother. Because she was a child when this occurred, her feelings have changed over time. It is easy to understand how Beth became irritated with her mother, who struggled to move on and was often in tears. It is also easy to see how Beth was able to forget things for a while, and then quickly remember and mourn for all she had lost.
I found the beginning of this book to be especially well crafted. Greenfield begins by writing of her grandmother's death. An event, that while sad, was not unexpected, and was not the tragedy some losses are. She is able to communicate how this death compared and contrasted to her brother's death a few decades previously. At her grandmother's grave, Beth's parents remained calm, yet sad. Before leaving the cemetery the family stops at Beth's brother, Adam's grave. At this site, her parents fall to their knees, sobbing as if Adam's death had just taken place recently.
From this initial chapter, Greenfield then takes readers back to her childhood, sharing anecdotes about Adam and Kristin and her relationship with them. Greenfield and her family are truly the family next door - what happened to them could happen to any of us. I appreciated Greenfield's writing about this life changing event, something that was probably cathartic and therapeutic, yet also an extremely emotional undertaking for her and her family.
While Greenfield's book does not have the happy ending we would like, something that is not possible, it does show Beth and her family decades later, having forged ahead in life - sometimes slowly, sometimes painfully, yet still together.