If There Are Any Heavens: A Memoir
Written with visceral urgency in the earliest days of grief, If There Are Any Heavens resists categorization: it is a memoir, a poem, a mournful but loving song.
On January 6, 2021, at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in America, while the U.S. Capitol is under attack, Nicholas Montemarano drives six hundred miles to see his mother, who is hospitalized with COVID pneumonia and in a critical state. For ten days he lives in a hotel minutes from the hospital, alternating between hope and helplessness. This is the story of those ten days. It is the story of the pandemic told through the intimate prism of one family’s loss.
Written with visceral urgency in the earliest days of grief, If There Are Any Heavens resists categorization: it is a memoir, a poem, a mournful but loving song. Its form asks readers to slow down and breathe between each broken line. At other moments, a chorus of voices—anti-maskers, COVID-deniers, and doctors—causes the reader to become breathless. It is an almost real-time account of the anxiety, uncertainty, and sorrow brought on by this pandemic. It is also, finally, a devastating homage to a family’s love in a time of great loss.
Now, and many years from now, when people want to understand the personal cost of the COVID-19 pandemic, they will turn to this intimate and spare elegy from a son to his mother.