Joseph Luzzi’s new memoir, In a Dark Wood: What Dante Taught Me About Grief, Healing, and the Mysteries of Love, transforms unthinkable tragedy into literary gold. In November 2007, while Luzzi was teaching at Bard College, his beloved pregnant wife Katherine was in a car accident: She died later that morning at the hospital, shortly after their daughter Isabel was born. In the space of a single morning, Joseph Luzzi became both a father and widower.
Although he speaks repeatedly of his “two Italies”—a phrase he borrows from the poet Shelley—Joseph Luzzi is neither fully at home among the coarse elements of Calabrian culture his immigrant parents brought with them to America nor within the borders of Italy itself, what with its infuriating mix of high art and low purpose. But it is this unresolved quality of Luzzi’s musings—the back and forth tugging of a splendid mind—that makes this book so alive and such a pleasure to read.