Book Review: The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander


Elizabeth and Ficre. She a poet and he an artist create a life and a family together enjoying Eritrean fantasia food, art, literature, travel, dinner parties with friends, and ordinary errands.

“The story seems to begin with catastrophe but in fact began earlier and is not a tragedy but rather a love story. Perhaps tragedies are only tragedies in the presence of love, which confers meaning to loss. Loss is not felt in the absence of love.” These lines from the opening of Elizabeth Alexander’s new memoir The Light of The World pull us into the lives of Elizabeth and Ficre.

With beautifully poetic language and raw vulnerable honesty the author shares the story of losing her husband, Ficre, suddenly and only days after his fiftieth birthday. She writes about how death deepens the experiences we have on life’s journey, about how art is her religion, and about how she determined the passage of time based on how much her two sons cried each day in the year after their father’s death.

As Alexander carries on her life without her husband and establishes home in a new place, she grieves her loss and relishes the tangibles keeping the memories of her beloved husband alive. She shares with readers complete recipes of dishes Ficre cooked, lines of poetry they enjoyed, and visions of paintings both complete and incomplete.

From the images of Ficre growing up in East Africa to details of their life together in New Haven to her life with her boys in New York City, the author’s story reminds us of words her husband etched on a painting for their bedside.

“I wake up grateful, for life is a gift.”


Renee believes we all have a story and advocates continuously for sharing & improving these stories. An educator and activist for eradicating inequities in our world, Renee believes access to quality education is a right for everyone. On the C&W blog Renee explores her creative side by offering thoughts on a variety of books from her book a week reading list. Renee lives in Lexington, Kentucky with her husband and two sons.

Twitter: @renee_boss