Joy Rides through the Tunnel of Grief
download cover image ►

Joy Rides through the Tunnel of Grief

A Memoir

Title Details

Pages: 248

Trim size: 5.500in x 8.500in



Pub Date: 09/01/2023

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6547-3

List Price: $22.95


Pub Date: 09/01/2023

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6549-7

List Price: $22.95


Pub Date: 09/01/2023

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6548-0

List Price: $22.95

Joy Rides through the Tunnel of Grief

A Memoir

Essays that reckon with love, wonder, and the fierce bonds between women

Skip to

  • Description
  • Reviews

Joy Rides through the Tunnel of Grief is a fresh and ferocious memoir-in-essays that maps the boundaries of love, language, and creative urgency. When Nelson’s father dies from an accident caused by complications from alcoholism, she knows immediately she has inherited his love—that it left his body, traveled through the air, and entered her own. And so, she needs a place to put it. She needs to know what to do with it, how not to waste it, how to make something with it, how to honor it and put language to it. So, she places it with her brother, Eric, whose opioid addiction makes his death feel always imminent. With her partner, Jack, together for fifteen years. With her exhausted, grieving mother, her best friend Jessie, women at the gym she’s never had the courage to speak to, but loves completely. But mostly, she places it with her future child, the one she does not yet have but deeply wants. The child who is both the question of love—and the answer to it.

So, when Jack suddenly confesses that he does not want to have children—not with her, not ever—the someday vessel for her boundless and insatiable love hunger swiftly disappears, taking with it a fundamental promise of her life: motherhood. Joy Rides through the Tunnel of Grief catalyzes from this place. Fluidly navigating through past, present, and future, Nelson asks: Where does her desire to have a child come from? How does wonder charge and change a life? Are the imperatives to make art and to make a child born from the same searching place? Are they both masked and misguided attempts to thwart death? Nelson investigates the tremulous makings and unmakings of our most intense and fragile bonds—family, friends, lovers—with searing insight, humor, and tenderness.

I didn’t just read this book—I consumed it. Joy Rides through the Tunnel of Grief is raw and fecund, heartbreaking, wise, wickedly funny, and razor sharp—one woman’s brave and vulnerable navigation of the daily pathos and joy that ultimately tells the story of the human condition. At times, the sheer craft of Jessica Hendry Nelson's writing stopped my breath and made me immediately re-read a passage just so that I could experience it again.

—Emily Saliers, Indigo Girls

Jessica Hendry Nelson’s Joy Rides through the Tunnel of Grief is a stunning, hilarious, propulsive book—somehow breathless and thoughtful at once—that I’ll remember for the rest of my days. It is ruthlessly insightful but always merciful, never precious but always profound—written with a close, awestruck attention to the lush particulars of this world, its unexpected provisions of grace. It is full of surprising love songs—to gatherings of women, acts of caregiving and strange community, fraught friendships; to students and strange lessons; to various fruitful forms (the list, the letter, the shard); to the condition of loving flawed and self-thwarting people (all of us), and—most of all—to the terrifying, saving entanglement of suffering and wonder.

—Leslie Jamison, author of The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath

This raw and lyrical memoir beckons forth the all of life—birth, joy, death, grief—to posit wonder as a necessary means of survival. At once tender and devastating, I’ve never read anything like it.

—Courtney Maum, author of The Year of the Horses

Jessica Hendry Nelson’s Joy Rides through the Tunnel of Grief is a memoir of 'contradictory truths'—where a father is dead and alive all at once, where the past is as present as the word now in a world 'so full of love and longing and wonder and grief and fear.' It is an elegy. It is a love song. It is a cry to women to renew their bonds with one another. It is a sister’s lament, and it is a dirge for a marriage gone under. It is also a book-length braided meditation on the act of creation itself—from the creation of life to the creation of story.

—Brian Turner, author of My Life as a Foreign Country

For Jessica Hendry Nelson, the seams and edges of experience and feeling, the places most alive and frightening in their vulnerability, beauty, and rage are also places ripe with wonder. This is 'a book of impossible questions,' she writes. Beautifully wrought questions, I’d add—ones burnished by the intense beam of her attention. Among the most poignant: How to love those who are simultaneously here and not here? En route to her own true north, Nelson offers the very thing all readers yearn for: a heart’s companion.

—Lia Purpura, author of All the Fierce Tethers and It Shouldn’t Have Been Beautiful

While—true to its name—this book certainly holds at its center the true gravity of real and anticipatory grief, unenviable but inevitable, Jessica Hendry Nelson’s Joy Rides through the Tunnel of Grief thrums most with the urgency of life and wanting: to consume, to be consumed, to create, to destroy, and most of all to be salve and protection; more than anything, Nelson’s writing explores with fearlessness and ferocity the urgent and unwavering pull to create despite the wake of male indecision and carelessness. Less a flattened portrayal of grief than a dimensional, contemporary portrait of what it is to exist as a woman in this world, Nelson’s is an invigorating and refreshing testament to the competing pulls of love, fear, and desire.

—Amy Butcher, author of Mothertrucker

Joy Rides through the Tunnel of Grief is the book I've been looking for on my shelf for decades. Nothing exists quite like it; it was the missing book.Compassionate, intellectual, surprising, and impeccably crafted, this memoir holds your darkest nights and most elated joys.

—Chloe Caldwell, author of Women and The Red Zone

Jessica Hendry Nelson’s Joy Rides Through the Tunnel of Grief is an intricate and breathtaking tapestry of beauty, wonder, and longing. It’s as tender and resplendent as a cherry blossom tree at peak bloom. This is the work of a writer at the top of her form; the kind of book that can’t be summarized and can only be experienced.

—Michele Filgate, Writer and Editor of WHAT MY MOTHER AND I DON'T TALK ABOUT

About the Author/Editor

JESSICA HENDRY NELSON is the author of the memoir If Only You People Could Follow Directions as well as Advanced Creative Nonfiction: A Writers’ Guide and Anthology with coauthor Sean Prentiss. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Tin House, the Threeepenny Review, North American Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books and elsewhere. She teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University and in the MFA Program at the University of Nebraska in Omaha. She lives in Richmond, Virginia.