The Last Portrait: A Psalm for Monique – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Deborah Nelson

The Last Portrait: A Psalm for Monique is Deborah Nelson’s memoir about the grief she endured after the loss of her daughter, Monique. Monique had just finished getting holiday portraits taken of her and her two-year-old son, then found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. A gun fight between rival gangs erupted around her and she threw herself over her son to save him – ultimately losing her own life in the process. Afterwards, Deborah Nelson struggled to overcome a “Black Hole” of devastation and grief, sending her on a whirlwind journey to acceptance, love, and life.

The Last Portrait is not exactly a book to be enjoyed; on the contrary, it is overwhelmingly bittersweet. Although many joyful and sweet moments are shared, both from Deborah Nelson’s childhood and her daughter’s, starting the book by discussing Monique’s death added a certain sorrowful weight to any of the happier memories. Perhaps, though, that was the point. Still, The Last Portrait is a heavy story, and not one that could – or should – be read lightly.

Nevertheless, it is engaging and intriguing anyway, largely because of Deborah Nelson’s captivating narration. She writes in an eloquent, enlightened, incredibly human manner that draws the reader in with every word. By the end of The Last Portrait, readers will have felt Nelson’s joy, her anger, her sorrow, and her sheer determination and will along with her as she recounts her story. This is not an easy read by any means, but a wonderful one all the same. The Last Portrait: A Psalm for Monique is a heart-wrenching, exhilarating, human story of love, joy, loss, and life that will be sure to touch the hearts of all who read it.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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