1. What is Always Too Soon about?
It’s a book about how losing your mother and father changes everything. It doesn’t seem to matter if your parents passed away suddenly or over a long period of time, whether you were younger or older when they died, no other milestone creates such an enormous, life-altering shift. It changes your perspective on career, family, how you think about the future, and the way you relate to your own children. When you have one parent, a connection to your childhood remains. When both parents are gone, that tether is completely severed. You are, for the first time, nobody’s son or daughter.
2. What kind of book is it?
Always Too Soon is a collection of intimate interviews. You’ll find words of comfort and inspiration from Rosanne Cash, Hope Edelman, Barbara Ehrenreich, Yogi Berra, Mariel Hemingway, Ice-T, Dennis Franz, Geraldine Ferraro, Rosanna Arquette, Dana Buchman, among many others. Remarkably, these famous men and women didn’t restrict what I could ask them. We’d sit down, in some cases for hours, and discuss the deaths of their parents and what lessons they learned from living through such loss. The result is extraordinary. Always Too Soon is the only book of its kind.
I didn’t just interview celebrities, however. In the course of writing the book, I also spoke with men and women who lost their parents to infamous events like the Oklahoma City bombing, the crash of TWA flight 800, and September 11. The cumulative impact of reading these first-person stories is that readers come to understand they are not alone.
3. Why did you write Always Too Soon?
My mother passed when I was 25, before I was married, and my father died five years later when my son, my first, was just 18-months-old. Even though I was happily married and had a wonderful and growing family, I felt completely alone. Not having either parent is very different than still having one. There was this deep and unforgiving void in my life. Even though I was an adult, I ached for my parents’ love and support and I missed being able to just dial their numbers and call them.
I also felt nobody understood what I was going through. A lot of people expected me to just pick up the pieces and move on as if nothing had changed. But the truth is, everything had changed. I had seen my parents get sick, fight illness, and die. I spoke at their funerals, sorted through their belongings, and sold my childhood home. Friends started to seem younger than I — even though we were the same age. Ultimately, I went shopping for a book that could help me manage these complex feelings and I couldn’t find one. There were terrific books about losing your mom or losing your dad, but I couldn’t find much written about what it’s like to have lost both parents, especially from such a personal perspective. Always Too Soon fills that void.
4. How did you come up with the title?
Just about anyone who has ever lost a parent would relish just one more day or one more conversation with their mom and dad. I think it is human nature to want more. More love, more support, and in some cases, just more time to say the things we wish would have. It’s because of this desire to go back, if only for a moment, that it is always too soon to lose your parents.
5. There are a number of books about grief and loss. Why should I buy this one?
The men and women I interviewed didn’t hold back. Their recollections are honest and raw. They are also empowering and in some cases, surprisingly funny. The book unfolds like a support group and each reader is the newest member.
“The collected short memoirs are all quite moving… and will strike a chord with those who have lived through the deaths of one or both parents.”
– Publishers Weekly
“This book is a comfort to anyone who has ever lost a parent. In 2000, I lost my father, and two years later, I lost my mother. I was lucky to have them with me into my fifties. Others aren’t so fortunate, but all endure… Each story here eloquently captures the heart of loss. The lessons, forged from sorrow and eventual acceptance, are invaluable and intensely real.”
– Secretary of State John Kerry
“I wish I’d had a copy of Always Too Soon after my own parents died. To find oneself orphaned in middle age is a curious thing: You feel deserving of only the mildest form of sympathy, yet privately the sorrow is deep. The stories in Allison Gilbert’s new book offer proof that no matter how old we are when we lose our parents, it is a singular kind of grief. The essays reveal how others have made their way into the new life that each of us must construct for ourselves once we are no longer anyone’s daughter or son.”
– Caitlin Flanagan, author of To Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife
“After losing her second parent in her mid-thirties, CNN producer Gilbert searched bookstores for accounts of other adult orphans. When she came up empty-handed, the seeds of this book were sown, as she began interviewing a wide variety of celebrities and regular people who lost parents to tragedies like the crash of TWA Flight 800, drunk driving, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Particularly evocative are the contributions from rapper/actor Ice-T, singer/songwriter Rosanne Cash, and social critic Barbara Ehrenreich. Included are selections by people who had difficult relationships with their parents, those who lost their parents as children, and some who candidly admit to having valued one parental relationship over the other. This often heart-wrenching collection of voices should provide the type of textual “support group” formerly absent from the literature of grief.”
– Library Journal
“Take this book and treat it like a friend. Spend time with the people in it; you can read it in private, reread it, cry, remember, mourn, wrap yourself in your own memories triggered by something someone else has expressed. You will undoubtedly continue to find comfort in the lives, courage, and determination of the people you meet in this book long after you have put it down.”
– Lois F. Akner, C.S.W., author of How to Survive the Loss of a Parent
“I recommend Always Too Soon to any reader…”
—Helen Fitzgerald, Training Director, American Hospice Foundation