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In a Dark Wood

A Memoir

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Product Description and Author Information

About the Book

On a cold November morning, Joseph Luzzi found himself racing to the hospital. His wife, Katherine, eight-and-a-half months pregnant, had been in a horrible car accident—in one terrible instant, Luzzi became both a widower and a first-time father.

In the aftermath of unthinkable tragedy, Luzzi relied on the support of his Italian immigrant family, returning to his childhood home in Rhode Island to mourn and to care for his infant daughter. Adrift and grieving, Luzzi found himself sharing Dante’s dark wood with an intimacy that years of scholarship had never shown him. As Luzzi grapples with his loss and struggles to rebuild the life he had known, he shepherds readers through a universally relatable journey of suffering with wisdom and compassion.

Blending heartrending memoir and meditations on the power of great art to give us strength in our darkest moments, In a Dark Wood is a poignant and surprising affirmation of life and love.

About the Author

Joseph Luzzi

Joseph Luzzi holds a doctorate from Yale and teaches at Bard. He is the author of My Two Italies, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, and Romantic Europe and the Ghost of Italy, which won the Scaglione Prize for Italian Studies from the Modern Language Association. His essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Bookforum, and the Times Literary Supplement.


“A forthright chronicle of emergence from darkness.” Kirkus Reviews

“A heartfelt memoir…[Luzzi’s] is a quest so universal that we can all fin ourselves in his struggle.” —Christian Science Monitor

“Compelling” —Providence Journal

“Heartfelt memoir… [told with] raw and unguarded candor.” —New York Times Book Review

“Joseph Luzzi lived through something terrible, and has made something beautiful. In a Dark Wood is a memoir of love and loss; but more than that, it is a powerful testimony to the consolation—even salvation—that an engagement with great literature can supply.” —Rebecca Mead, author of My Life in Middlemarch

“Luzzi has written a memoir that is at once inspiring and fascinating. Beautifully written, with humor as well as depth, this book is a must for all serious readers.” —Hudson Valley News

“Luzzi honestly grapples with profound questions about being a man and father in this very literary and very personal work.” Publishers Weekly

“Luzzi’s new memoir transforms unthinkable tragedy into literary gold. More than simply a memoir of mourning, In a Dark Wood testifies to the life-giving importance of literature and what it has to teach us.” —BookPage.com

“Luzzi’s story is intensely personal, but holds universal appeal for anyone who has experienced love and loss. As he grasps blindly for routes out of his personal underworld, both he and the reader discover that only a change of mind and heart can open the way to love and fulfillment.” Booklist

“Powerful and indispensable, Joseph Luzzi unites emotion and ideas in a work that defies categorization, except for the category marked ‘brilliant.’ If every academic wrote like this, the humanities would be prospering.” —Gary Shteyngart, New York Times bestselling author of Little Failure and Super Sad True Love Story

“You say you’ve not read The Divine Comedy…. It doesn’t matter. Luzzi writes with the economy and flair of a novelist…[and] makes it all personal when he twines his historical analysis…with his own dark emotional terrain.” Chronogram

“…achingly beautiful… —Entertainment Weekly

“An engrossing struggle to build a life after enormous personal loss and the luminous power of literature to transform sorrow’s exile into a kind of blessing.” —New York Journal of Books

“Heartbreaking. Heartrending. Heart-stopping.” —Vanity Fair

“In his memoir...Luzzi adopts Dante’s journey as his own. He writes about the long, difficult path through the hell of grief in search of healing, [exploring] the power that Dante’s poetry still holds for modern audiences.” —The Thread, MPR News

“The book soared when Luzzi used Dante’s words to explain how grief made him feel.” —Salon

“This is not an academic book about Dante. It’s an elegant and moving memoir of one man’s journey through grief and finally back to life.” —Albany Times Union