Sloane Crosley: What to do when you lose a friend

“I always thought what I was writing would be for some manner of public consumption, but in the early stages I didn’t know the shape of it.”

The book – in a wink-and-nod to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) – is divided into Crosley’s own stages, which defiantly don’t include “acceptance” (denial, bargaining, anger, depression, afterward).

Perreault’s death rocked the New York book industry. He was a respected veteran of publishing, having worked with renowned authors Joan Didion, Michael Ondaatje, Jhumpa Lahiri, Cheryl Strayed and Alexander McCall Smith over his 25-year career. In an obituary, publisher Anne Messitte described Perreault as a “beloved colleague – exuberant, funny, precocious, [and] smart”. 

Crosley began writing about Perreault’s death – and its impact on her – almost immediately after the event, though she later edited that material. Her book considers the chain of events that may or may not have some sort of meaning in the bigger frame of her life, and her relationship with Russell. A month before her friend’s tragic death, Crosley’s New York apartment was robbed, with a thief – or thieves – breaking into a vintage cabinet to steal jewellery that she had inherited from her grandmother.

Following the shock of Russell’s death, the recent memory of the theft awakens a fury in Crosley that can only be calmed through hunting down her stolen jewellery and restoring some semblance of justice as her world teeters on the edge of chaos. When the pandemic hits soon afterwards, Crosley views events as a domino effect of disaster. Grief is for People is a book that feels unhealed in the semi-daze of grief that the author is making sense of in real time. Despite the turmoil of traumatic events (of varying degrees) occurring in such a brief period, Crosley was able to observe her own life from enough distance to document it.

“The suicide of a dear friend and his absence and, to a lesser extent, the violation and absence of my jewellery, those two events are flirting dangerously close to a horrific experience, but there’s always a sliver where you can observe it with a writerly vibe. After Russell died, the book took off – it expanded [beyond the original notes on the robbery].”

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