Two Kisses for Maddy: A widow reviews Matt Logelin's memoir

Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love, the new memoir by our friend, Matt Logelin, stands out among the passel of recent books by widowed people about their experiences. With a combination of grace and profanity, Logelin shares his life and love leading up to the death of his beautiful wife, just a day after delivering their daughter, Maddy, and his path upwards as a father and as a man since then.

Readers of Logelin's blog are familiar with his "story" (uh, we used to call it a "life?") but will be happy to find the book not only original, but as heartfelt and black-humorous as his other writings. It's meaty without being gloomy at all.

Logelin says he's no writer, and the first piece he wrote with any emotional content at all was about Liz, just after her death. But Two Kisses for Maddy is both candid and well crafted. In addition to sharing with us his taste in music (which he admits runs to the moribund), the author knows which details to include to illustrate the paradoxes and wonders of his experience as a young widower and Dad. He's an easy-going, frank person, and readers will enjoy getting to know him in these pages.

While I expect most reviewers will spend their emotional energy on Matt's "story," my readers (most of them widowed) won't see the novelty in a young widowed parent trying to get by -- but there is plenty for this tough audience to enjoy in Matt's honest memoir.

For me, the most vivid images in the book are those of communities that built around him and those he discovered. His family and Liz's, a lifetime's worth of close friends, an army of well-loved acquaintances, get together with blog readers and complete strangers (which he calls "strangers friends") in coffee shops and record stores, surround him with love and support in a way most grieving parents would envy. You sense that the world around him has accepted and adjusted to the new life he and Maddy have. And he shares how meeting widowed friends in blogs helped him feel less alone at the darkest times.

Logelin's "story" (uh oh, that word again!) aroused tremendous interest in the civilian world, and he and Maddy were showered with gifts, including many from blog readers. This unexpected generosity moved Logelin to start a foundation in Liz's honor, which is the only one of its kind in the country. To date, the Liz Logelin Foundation has made more than 72 no-strings-attached financial gifts to young widowed parents -- an amazing accomplishment that surely helps make our cause more visible to America and demonstrates its value to these young families.

Logelin is inspired, every day, even every terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day (and he shares vivid images of those days), by his daughter's needs. Numb after witnessing death, Logelin is awake enough to be terrified that he is now solely responsible for her future: "Fucking up," he says, "was not an option." Loss gives Logelin not only a bigger job than most parents, but also the fierce determination to not manifest the "bumbling Dad" archetype. He's doting and competent, appreciative, intent, and his musical taste is being passed on in spite of (or perhaps thanks to?) DJ Lance and Brobee.

On a shelf with dozens of navel-gazing tomes about grief, Logelin's is that rare memoir that illustrates and illuminates a young but deep life. Two Kisses for Maddy is smart, sweet, and full of heart. I recommend it for widowed people and civilians alike.


annie said...

Don't lightly discount the "story". We live in a society where single fathers are routinely dismissed and dissed and his example is a powerful one.

That said, it is disheartening that single mothers are not lionized too. There was a study recently that found that families headed by single mothers were the least favored familial group by Americans who viewed the the most negatively.

These types of memoirs allow people to remind themselves how lucky they are and perhaps they remember to act a bit more grateful about it for a few days after reading.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Annie, I agree, Matt's testimony as a father makes his story valuable from that perspective as well. Fatherhood has changed so much since I was parented... and Matt's words (particularly in the blog, as Maddy has grown) provides a continuing and terrific picture of a father's life.

The judgment that accrues to divorced parents is a big part of what we widows feel so oppressed by, particularly in those age groups, parenting cohorts, etc. where divorce seems as common as a standing marriage...

annie said...

There is a lot of judgment and assumption about single moms. I was very aware of it anyway b/c of my youngest sister and many of my students came from households headed by women, but even so, it was still oppressive and annoying.

My late husband had to be put in a nursing home about 15 months before he died. We were new in our neighborhood and there was some drama at the beginning when his illness was finally in full bloom but he wasn't yet diagnosed. Most of the neighbors assumed he was either crazy, a drunk or both. So when he was no longer living at home, the assumption was that he and I had split. I wasn't exactly a popular neighbor after that. Interestingly, when the word got around that he'd died, I was suddenly okay to talk to and though the winter before I had struggled to shovel my driveway while the guy with the plow on his truck had dug out everyone else. Once I was widowed as opposed to divorced, he was glad to dig me out too.

Matt's example is a positive one but it also should remind us that women in his position are not as likely to become Internet darlings or be asked to write books about their experiences. Being an XY single parent evokes sympathy and praise whereas the XX'rs still get scarlet letters.

Ferree Bowman Hardy said...

Insightful comments on single parent groups--(maybe a future blog post?)--but I mainly just wanted to say thanks for a great book review--objective, balanced and gives a good idea of the book without sounding like a "book report." Now I've got another book to read . . .

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Ferree, oh heavens, if I really got into my comments on single parenting and the public perception thereof, I would have NO friends left at all, which I just can't afford.
Even remarried.
But enjoy the book. Matt's a treasure and his Maddy... typical in the best way possible.

Unknown said...

Over the last 25 years or so being a single parent has become more usual and acceptable to society. It is no longer frowned upon, in fact now days it is quite the opposite. Many people are inspired by how they are able to look after their children alone. Over this period of time more support structures have been put in place that have help the single parent to raise their family.

help for single Dads

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Dan, Did you have a comment about Matt's book? Because I think his experiences contradict what you say. Whether single parenting is possible or easier... maybe, but that's kind of off topic.


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