Balancing Act: After Losing Her Son, Ariel Levy’s Beautiful Hunt For Meaning

By Heidi Stevens
Chicago Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Heidi Stevens of the Chicago Tribune reviews Ariel Levy’s new memoir, “The Rules Do Not Apply”, which tells the story of what comes before and after the death of Levy’s son whom she gave birth to at 19 weeks.

Chicago Tribune

It’s an act of courage to hunt for meaning within grief, particularly if the search upends your life and shakes out the contents for all the world to sift through.

Ariel Levy embarks on the hunt beautifully in her new memoir, “The Rules Do Not Apply,” (Random House, 224 pages, $27) which builds upon “Thanksgiving in Mongolia,” the New Yorker essay for which she received the 2014 National Magazine Award for Essays and Criticism.

“Thanksgiving in Mongolia” is about the death of Levy’s infant son. She gave birth at 19 weeks, and the baby died within minutes. “The Rules Do Not Apply” is the story of what comes before and after his death.

“Grief is a world you walk through skinned, unshelled,” she writes.

What comes before is the stuff of early adulthood, love, heartbreak, marriage, career, albeit told through the lens of someone who weaves narratives for a living and for whom “career” means, for example, traveling to rural South Africa to track down Caster Semenya, a female Olympic runner whose gender has been questioned around the world.

Levy worked as a contributing editor at New York Magazine for 12 years. In 2008 she’s hired as a staff writer at The New Yorker. David Remnick, the storied New Yorker editor, sends Levy a bouquet of flowers to welcome her aboard and signs it, ‘As ever, David Remnick.’

“Are you sure it doesn’t say, ‘As if?’ ” Levy’s wife, Lucy, jokes.

“Nowhere to go but down,” her father tells her.

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