Book Review | “Those Who Remain: Remembrance and Reunion After War” by Ruth W. Crocker

Posted Monday, 2 November, 2015 by jorielov , , 2 Comments

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Acquired Book By: I was approached to read a different book than the one I asked to read, as the original choice the publicist made for me didn’t feel like a good fit, to be honest. I asked to receive “Those Who Remain” because I have a strong connection to the war eras as I regularly read war dramas and historical fiction set during this period; yet I do not often think to pick up a work of non-fiction that is connected to the eras. I was thankful I could step out of my comfort zone and read a creative non-fiction account set during the Vietnam War. I received a complimentary copy of the “Those Who Remain” direct from the publicist at Claire McKinney Public Relations, in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Why letters and correspondences interest me within a story of a war drama:

Oft-times letters and correspondences are all that will remain after a war between wives and husbands; daughters and fathers; sons and mothers, etc. as war is an uncertain time of unforeseeable tragedy. The words etched into postcards, pieces of paper or scribbled onto napkins or other bits of mail become a lasting tribute to not only the person who gave those words to their loved ones but to the receiver who knew a bit of their thoughts before they passed. Not everyone perishes at war, but for the families who lose their relatives, the sudden separation and the lack of a proper good-bye is mind-numbingly anguishing for many years.

When it comes to reading war dramas in fiction, I appreciate the writers who fuse history and fact into their stories, but also allow a breath of connection between those at the front and those back home. Finding letters caught inside the tethers of a war drama is one way to anchour me into that story because of how important those letters were in reality. I read quite a lot of war dramas per year, but I also appreciate certain tv serials who augment the same connections I find in their fictional counterparts such as Foyle’s War and As Time Goes By. The latter had the plot focused on a missing letter which was never delivered and thus, became the impetus of how a soldier and a nurse reunited years later in their golden years.

The novel which illuminated the necessity for correspondence at war the best, I felt, was Letters from Skye a novel writ around the letters themselves; taking me to a new vein of reality of how a novel can be told. Reviewing this novel twice was a way I could give the author a second note of gratitude for how convicting her story moved my emotional heart.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com Book Review | “Those Who Remain: Remembrance and Reunion After War” by Ruth W. CrockerThose Who Remain
Subtitle: Remembrance and Reunion After War
by Ruth W. Crocker
Source: Direct from Publisher

She was 23 years old when she was widowed by war and rather than bury her husband in his coffin, she buried every memory of their brief life together. Forty years later she exhumed the grave and came to terms with her loss and her grief.

Nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2013 writer-teacher-actress Ruth W. Crocker brings her journey of love, loss, and inspiration to the page in her beautiful memoir THOSE WHO REMAIN: Remembrance and Reunion after War (Elm Grove Press).

Sometimes the reaction to loss is anger along with the need to be reckless and to search for meaning in what has happened. In THOSE WHO REMAIN, Ruth W. Crocker was propelled by her complex emotions at the time. On the one hand she needed to close the door on her previous life, and on the other she wanted to pay tribute to her husband's memory and escape from her grief. To this end she hiked up to the treacherous North Face of the Eiger, the most notorious mountain in the Swiss Alps, to spread her husband's ashes at the top of the climb they were supposed to do together.

Weaving her beautifully-written recollections with diary entries, letters between her and her husband, and conversations with his comrades, Ruth gives readers an intimate glimpse into the life of a woman who faced her fears and braved the forces of nature to learn that she could survive anything that came her way. A unique true story of grief and recovery with a surprising revelation, THOSE WHO REMAIN demonstrates the tenacious will of the human spirit to heal.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781940863009

Genres: Memoir, Motherhood | Parenthood, Non-Fiction, Spirituality & Metaphysics, War Drama


Published by Elm Grove Press

on 13th May 2014

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 294

Published by: Elm Grove Press 

Available Formats: Paperback and Ebook

About Ruth W. Crocker

Ruth W. Crocker

Ruth W. Crocker, PhD, is a 2013 Pushcart Prize nominated author, writing consultant, and expert on recovery from trauma and personal tragedy. Her memoir Those Who Remain: Remembrance and Reunion After War describes her experience following her husband’s death in Vietnam and how she found resources for healing.

Crocker’s essays have been recognized in Best American Essays and her articles have been
featured in the Gettysburg Review, Grace Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, O-Dark-Thirty, and T.A.P.S. Magazine.

She received an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Bennington College, a PhD in Nutrition and Human Development from the University of Connecticut and a Master of Education from Tufts University. Along the way she also became a Registered Dietitian.

Crocker worked in health care administration and clinical nutrition before becoming a full-time writer. Currently, she is the Writer-In-Residence at Riverlight Wellness Center in Stonington, Connecticut, where she teaches the art of writing memoirs and personal essays to aspiring writers who want to express their own stories. She lives, cooks, and writes in Mystic, Connecticut.

Why the past (and the memories carried therein) can rekindle hope and our humanity’s will towards accepting grace:

There is a point in the story where Crocker mentions the true blessing of living histories (what my family refers to as the stories of our relatives and relations throughout our ancestral past) where we become tethered to our family through the living memories of people who lived before our own time. Sometimes these can be peppered with your living relatives recollections of their lives in the decades before your birth, but generally speaking, it’s a way to keep a tangible impression of your family’s journey through time refreshed and known for the generations who are coming down the line.

I appreciated these stories because they clarified a few finer points of the historical past where I found a bit of fault with lessons in school; as I was being given a wider picture than the option only to recount facts and tidbits someone else deemed worthy of my attention. In a conversation on Twitter earlier in 2015 (believe during #HistoricalFix; follow @HistoricalFix), it was mentioned that if historical fiction was taught in school (especially the authors of today or yesterday who conduct such impressive research to ground their stories) we would have a whole new appreciation for history as a whole. I tend to agree with this sentiment whole-heartedly because when the ‘past’ comes alive for me as I read a novel, it is a kind reminder of how much the past was ‘alive’ for me through the stories of my family. We have a need to make connections whilst we’re alive, it’s not only how we process information and keep a stronghold of knowledge vibrant and a part of who we are, it’s a way of how we internalise what we’re experiencing.

If we start to forget to share the stories, we will soon find ourselves without a path towards reacquiring the hope of where we’ve been and the joy of where we are about to venture forward next.

My Review of Those Who Remain:

The conviction of certainty within the voice of Those Who Remain is as strong as if the author were sitting across from me, telling me this story aloud. The rawness of her emotions are written with a keen sense of how to emote a distant pain and a renewal of hope, separated by the decades between her loss and her resolution of spirit. In the opening, we are choking on the intensity of what Crocker felt when she first learnt of her husband’s death at war, but it’s how she moves away from that initial shock to a more calming present that settled me into this narrative. The emotions are still there, a bit tempered and encourage a bit of light out of the darkened shadows of the past – we are re-entering at a time where she herself decided to change a choice she made in 1969.

Interspersed between memory and an introspective analysis of how Crocker reached the point of returning to her husband’s graveside memory box (as his remains were not buried; the artifacts of their marriage and love were) is a genuine willingness to broach open an interpersonal conversation between the author and the reader. Crocker asks questions of those of whom are reading her book to walk beside her as she re-tells her own story but also, to look inside your own spirit, heart and mind to see if what she learnt along the way can be reflected outward from your own experiences of life and death. For someone who has grieved more than a sixpence in her own years, I can attest how we approach those we lose is a testament of wills to how we survive the tragedies that leave us momentarily numb to life’s most difficult moments of living. You have to live through loss and walk through your grief – only your timing is right for you, but it’s how you choose to keep your memories alive and the persons you’ve lost lit by light of yesterday that defines how you move forward.

Crocker moves you through her life, reliving everything backwards to forwards, whilst giving you insights into Dave during those same formative years where she was bumping along through school and trying to get a handle of what lay in store for her future. Dave was quite assured of himself and of what he wanted to do with his life; Ruth was still trying to examine her options whilst allowing herself the chance to grow into her own at a rate which felt right to her. Both of them were dedicated to their families and had a high respect for each other. They were a time out of time in some ways, as most of the country was still getting used to the idea of women being forward-thinkers and being independently knowledgeable outside their marriages. Ruth benefited from a family who raised her outside the box of the norm and giving her a freedom of choices.

Her act of re-opening a door to her soul through her intentions to recover what she buried in 1969 became a retreat back inside her memories. The memories she had buried as surely as if they were writ down on paper and placed inside the casket with the letters and memorabilia of her and Dave’s life together. This story has a bit of a twist of an ending – it’s not one that I was expecting, but due to the enormity of the back-story being shared, there was an earlier turning point for me, before this realisation where I felt the author had found something far more important than to bring forward a piece of the past you can hold and feel with your hands.

I felt as if this journey she had taken herself upon was a cathartic release and cleansing of recognising you do what you need to do in order to survive, but when you find you’ve walked through the worst of it; take time to remember. Remember the hours and the moments you lived sharing your life with the person you loved. Give yourself fully to the recollections and to allow time to etch itself back over where the present and the past meet together. I felt the hidden story of Those Who Remain is finding the story within this tome of a memoir is Ruth’s; her passage through absolute tragic loss to a re-affirmative nod towards seeing how the love of her younger self enabled her to live a life Dave would have smiled at watching evolve into being; if anything, Dave was the first person who believed in what Ruth was capable of doing.

By absolute serendipitous timing, the exhumation of Crocker’s artifacts began on Halloween; four years later during Halloween week, I am reading her story. It makes you wonder about ‘timing’ in life and the moments in which we are meant to read a ‘story’ which has percolated an interest in our mind. I’ve mentioned this a few times before, how a story enters my life vs when I sit down to read it’s pages; it’s a curious notion truly; do we pick the stories we read or do the stories find us to read them? You could go further to speculate – what about the ‘timing’ of your readings? Is there more to it than merely picking up a book and choosing to read it at a certain moment in time vs another of an opposite month on the calendar? Do certain stories resonate with us during certain seasons of the year or is there a delay for a period of time in which a story has a better chance of resonating with our own spirit?

Reflecting on the beauty of Ruth W. Crocker’s approach to telling this story:

Crocker is a story-teller, the natural organic kind of story-teller who sits down to write a non-fiction memoir and gives a trepiderious non-fiction reader (such as I) a story which reads like a novel! Her keen insight into the human condition as it journeys through soul-tearing adversity and the journey back through grace which repairs the distance on the opposite end of grief gives such a grounding of place and time; you cannot remove your eyes from Those Who Remain!

I appreciated how she moved between her living history and the memories she had of Dave; this became ‘their story’ rather than merely ‘his story’, and to me this was a beautiful testament of how one person can positively affect another life. Dave truly inspired Ruth. It was a bit cheeky for me to read the bits about where she’s sharing antidotes of her family’s legacy in the nursing care industry as my own past runs across the parallel world of the death care industry; at times, the two are inter-connected. Cheeky here refers to how I knowing was nodding and seeing similarities between the two as it felt like a special treat in the midst of a memoir; a sidestep to add a bit of levity. I think only those whose walked a path in similar circles would find this humourous, because after all, if you’ve forsaken your humour in the seriousness of fields, you’d lose your sanity.

Reading Those Who Remain is a sweet experience for those of us who are dearly connected to our loved ones, see the beauty in remembrance and the hearty clarity of allowing ourselves to forgive the past. It’s a special tucking of time and memory into the folds of where anguish and grief no longer have a stronghold on what happened but rather, are transformed through time and heart.

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This book review is courtesy of: Claire McKinney Public Relations

This review was meant to post earlier in the year, however, 2015 turnt out to be a difficult year for me, and thus, this review was re-scheduled more than once. In June it was delayed due to health reasons and I had to postpone this review until October due to the after effects of severe lightning storms in July and August led to nearly a full month of September to fix the damages. I regret I wasn’t able to post this sooner than now, however, I am thankful I can finally share my thoughts with both the publisher and the author; inasmuch as my readers. I decided to post this on the 28th of October but changed my mind to post this at midnight on All Saint’s Day as a tribute to Mr Crocker. Except to say, the virus I was battling through delayed me a bit from this goal.

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I look forward to reading your thoughts and comments on behalf of this review. Especially if you read the novel or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst bloggers/readers who picked up the same novel to read either by their own curiosity or whilst on a blog tour.

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Happily shared during #NonFictionFriday!

#NonFictionFriday hosted by Doing Dewey. Badge created by Doing Dewey and used with permission.

via DoingDewey in February 2016!

Originally I meant to share it via the link-up for NonFictionFriday, however, something distracted me and/or the list did not go live and somehow or another, I completely forgot to share it!

whilst joining:

Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge badge created by Jorie in Canva.

{SOURCES: Book synopsis and author biography were all provided by B&H Publishing and used with permission. Ruminations & Impressions Book Review Banner created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Sergey Zolkin. Comment Box Banner made by Jorie in Canva. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets embedded due to the codes provided by Twitter. #NonFictionFriday hosted by Doing Dewey. Badge created by Doing Dewey and used with permission. Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge badge created by Jorie in Canva.}

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Monday, 2 November, 2015 by jorielov in #JorieLovesIndies, #NonFictionFriday, 21st Century, Balance of Faith whilst Living, Based on an Actual Event &/or Court Case, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book Review (non-blog tour), Claire McKinney Public Relations, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Debut Author, Equality In Literature, Family Life, Flashbacks & Recollective Memories, History, Indie Author, Memoir, Military Families of the Deployed, Non-Fiction, Political Narrative & Modern Topics, Postal Mail | Letters & Correspondence, Quakers, Special Needs Children, Story knitted out of Ancestral Data, The Vietnam War, Travel the World in Books, War Widow, War-time Romance, Warfare & Power Realignment




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2 responses to “Book Review | “Those Who Remain: Remembrance and Reunion After War” by Ruth W. Crocker

  1. I love epistolary novels in general, partly just because they’re something different and partly because I think they tend to reveal interesting aspects of the characters’ personalities. As a nonfiction read, this sounds incredibly moving. I find dealing with sad or horrifying events in nonfiction much harder than in fiction. Knowing they’re true makes a big difference.

    • Hallo, Hallo Katie!

      I definitely agree with you – the more I realise how the harrowing events are based on actual real-life situations, the more difficult I find it is to resolve as I’m reading a story. I think this is why I was never charmed by ‘True Crime’; it’s just a bit too much for me! In this instance, it’s the confluence of Ms Crocker’s memories with her pursuit of the missing bits of a man’s life that truly hugged me close to the story. She wrote this story in such a way, as if you could re-live through everything that occurred as if only moments had passed, not full decades and years!

      I love Epistolary novels too! They are a special treat for the reader and I would imagine, a difficult process to sort out as a writer! Yet, they give us so much more than the story; they give us the ‘in-between bits’ which are just as precious to know as the main context of the story! They (letters) allow characters (and us IRL) to give a bit more of ourselves rather than just the facts of what is happening or had occurred.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this story! I appreciated your point of view!

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