Once More We Saw Stars gets brutally intimate about the details of grief and loss, with two shattered people improvising their own healing rituals. Their grief warps everything about their lives, right down to the way they read the strangers around them. “A young-looking couple takes their seats behind us,” he writes. “Something in their demeanor suggests to me we have something awful in common. They are haggard, drawn, depleted looking, despite being fiercely fit. I study them more closely for signs of ‘dead child.’” They try group therapy and yoga retreats. They decide to get matching tattoos. And they become parents again. But through it all, they’re struggling to keep their spirits alive, along with their daughter’s.
Popular on Rolling Stone
If only in a secondary way, it’s also a book full of music, in moments where a seemingly trivial sound delivers an unexpected emotional kick: a Mitski show, the Elliott Smith song he sang his daughter as a lullaby, the John Prine ballad he sings to welcome his newborn son to the world. When Greene hears a record by the indie duo Girlpool, their music “pierces the ice,” as he puts it: “two guitar chords hinted at by fingers and lyrics about the dawning ralizations of youth, the ones that feel like sunrise on your entire brain.” The music moments aren’t plentiful, but the book would be unimaginable without them. Ultimately, Once More We Saw Stars is about finding moments like these and weaving a new life out of them. And in Greene’s masterful and compassionate hands, it becomes a love story, in which Greta’s spirit feels almost painfully alive.