Flesh & Blood // by N. West Moss
Pub Day: October 12th, 2021
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Length: 320 pages
Bookshop.org Affiliate Link: You can get your copy of Flesh & Blood here.
About the Book:
Like millions of women, N. West Moss experienced the emotional pain and physical distress of infertility, but unlike most others, this eloquent and unsparing writer is singularly equipped to give voice to what is so often left unsaid. FLESH & BLOOD: Reflections on Infertility, Family, and Creating a Bountiful Life: A Memoir, is a candid, lyrical, and at once wise and droll memoir of Moss’s arduous medical journey through illness, surgery, complications, relapse, and recovery—but it is also a deeply ruminative journal that brims with a broader vision of life and all its unexpected, messy, and awe-inspiring complexities.
Moss was in the middle of a writing class when she suddenly began bleeding uncontrollably. Despite her anxiety and the blood gushing down her legs, she managed to drive herself to the nearest hospital. Doctors were baffled by her symptoms, ultimately diagnosing uterine hemangioma, a benign tumor that necessitated a hysterectomy. As she braved the dangers of her rare condition, Moss—who had already miscarried multiple times—was forced to come to terms with the reality that she would never give birth.
“I wrote the book I wished I’d had when I was unwell,” Moss says of FLESH & BLOOD. “I could find no honest account of what it’s like to grapple with infertility and hysterectomy, and I wanted to share the sensorial and intellectual struggles and even some delights that I faced, in the hopes of allowing others in the same situation to feel seen and heard in a way I did not. I think too often women feel they must suffer in secret, sometimes out of shame.”
While FLESH & BLOOD reveals the ups and downs of one woman’s medical experience, its deeper power may rest in Moss’s radiant observations of the natural world and in the people and places in which she finds hope: her tender, quirky husband, her memories of her beloved grandmother who taught her to read; her investigation into her New Orleans lineage; her bond with her remarkable mother (whose recipe for healing broth is included); her personal rapport with the praying mantis in her sunroom (whom she names Claude). As Moss recuperates, she reflects on the meaning of kin and kinship, and she considers the valuable legacy of those who do not leave children behind.
My brain is a little jumbled today and I’ve been struggling to get my thoughts organized into a review. I spent the weekend away but put some time aside to read this book and I am glad I did. I’m a big fan of bringing taboo topics, such as miscarriage, periods, mental health, and more into the spotlight. I’ve read a couple of memoirs about them before but I do have to say that none of them were quite like this one. It is not as technical as I am used to — something I personally do enjoy — but I do feel that this makes this book a lot more accessible to those readers that aren’t looking for a memoir that goes into a lot of technical detail. Moss writes about her struggle with growing her family as well as her mental and physical health and how those things affect her relationships. She also puts a lot of thought into the topic of legacy, something many of us equal with children to pass our memories, hopes and dreams onto. This work has an interesting format as well that reminds of essays with its short chapters that make this feel like a quick read while also providing the reader with a lot of optional breaks to reflect as this book can become very emotional. Sprinkled with a little bit of humor, a lot of family memories, and plenty of grace, this book has earned itself a permanent spot on my memoir shelf.
About the Author:
N. West Moss is author of FLESH & BLOOD: Reflections on Infertility, Family, and Creating a Bountiful Life, published by Algonquin (October 2021). Her work has appeared in The New York Times, McSweeney’s, The Saturday Evening Post, Salon, Brevity, The Blotter, and many other fine publications. Her work has been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes, and has won The Saturday Evening Post’s Great American Fiction Contest, as well as the Diana Woods Memorial Prize for Creative Nonfiction. Her work was also awarded three Faulkner-Wisdom gold medals for essay, short story, and memoir. Her first book, THE SUBWAY STOPS AT BRYANT PARK, was published by Leapfrog Press in 2017.
Isn’t that sky stunning? This picture has no filter on it! I spent the weekend with some girlfriends and in the words of one of them: we used to talk about boys, college and sorority life but this weekend, we spoke about husbands, houses and babies. Two of us are pregnant but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been heartbreak in the past, which I have written about on this blog before. There is a reason we call our little one Phoenix as a nickname. This was a much needed weekend away from every day stress and it provided some fun distractions with great dinners, beach walks and hilarious game nights but it also left me some time to reflect on the heartbreaks and blessings in my life. I read the majority of Flesh & Blood this weekend and I’m honestly glad that I saved it for this time despite cutting things so close with my tour date (sorry Algonquin!).
While I personally quit drinking a little bit before I found out I was pregnant, here is a fun recipe that some of yall might still want to try out. And I myself am a big fan of virgin cocktails because I don’t know about you, but I get tired of the normal sodas and lemonades everywhere!
1.5 oz gin (preferably Hendricks)
1 oz lemon juice
2 tsp basil syrup (see recipe)
2 tsp hibiscus syrup (see recipe)
Fresh mint, to garnish
Shake the gin, syrups, and lemon juice on ice. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with fresh mint.
½ cup fresh whole basil leaves
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Stir all ingredients together in a small pot, then bring to a boil. Simmer on the lowest setting, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let stand another 15 minutes, then strain into a clean jar or bottle. Keep refrigerated. Enjoy the syrup in cocktails, sodas, and lemonades.
2 cups water
½ cup white sugar
⅓ cup dried hibiscus flowers (available at your local tea shop, or at a variety of online retailers, like Etsy)
¼ cup brown sugar
1 (1/2 inch) piece fresh ginger root, thinly sliced or a tsp ginger paste
1 lemon or lime, zested
Additional ingredients (optional): 1-2 cinnamon sticks or ½ tsp cinnamon powder; 5-10 whole cloves; 1/4 tsp lemongrass; 1 Tbsp dried rose petals
Stir together all ingredients in a pot and cover, then bring to a boil. Uncover, reduce heat, and let simmer until sugars dissolve and the flowers soften, 20-25 minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove from heat and let stand for another 15 minutes as the flowers continue to steep. Strain the syrup into a clean bottle or jar. Keep refrigerated. Enjoy in cocktails, sodas, baked goods, or to flavor sauces and marinades.