Cover image for The bright hour : a memoir of living and dying / Nina Riggs.
The bright hour : a memoir of living and dying / Nina Riggs.
First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition
Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster, 2017.

Physical Description:
310 pages ; 22 cm.


Library Branch
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
1 Bob Harkins Branch 362.196994490092 RIG Book Adult General Collection

On Order




"Stunning...heartrending...this year's When Breath Becomes Air. " --Nora Krug, The Washington Post

"Beautiful and haunting." --Matt McCarthy, MD, USA TODAY

"Deeply affecting...simultaneously heartbreaking and funny." -- People (Book of the Week)

"Vivid, immediate." --Laura Collins-Hughes, The Boston Globe

Starred reviews from * Kirkus Reviews * Publishers Weekly * Library Journal *

Most Anticipated Summer Reading Selection by * The Washington Post * Entertainment Weekly * Glamour * The Seattle Times * Vulture * InStyle * Bookpage * Bookriot * Real Simple * The Atlanta Journal-Constitution *

An exquisite memoir about how to live--and love--every day with "death in the room," from poet Nina Riggs, mother of two young sons and the direct descendant of Ralph Waldo Emerson, in the tradition of When Breath Becomes Air .

"We are breathless, but we love the days. They are promises. They are the only way to walk from one night to the other."

Nina Riggs was just thirty-seven years old when initially diagnosed with breast cancer--one small spot. Within a year, the mother of two sons, ages seven and nine, and married sixteen years to her best friend, received the devastating news that her cancer was terminal.

How does one live each day, "unattached to outcome"? How does one approach the moments, big and small, with both love and honesty?

Exploring motherhood, marriage, friendship, and memory, even as she wrestles with the legacy of her great-great-great grandfather, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nina Riggs's breathtaking memoir continues the urgent conversation that Paul Kalanithi began in his gorgeous When Breath Becomes Air. She asks, what makes a meaningful life when one has limited time?

Brilliantly written, disarmingly funny, and deeply moving, The Bright Hour is about how to love all the days, even the bad ones, and it's about the way literature, especially Emerson, and Nina's other muse, Montaigne, can be a balm and a form of prayer. It's a book about looking death squarely in the face and saying "this is what will be."

Especially poignant in these uncertain times, The Bright Hour urges us to live well and not lose sight of what makes us human: love, art, music, words.

Author Notes

Nina Riggs was a poet and author. She received her MFA in poetry in 2004. Her collection of poems, Lucky, Lucky, was published in 2009. She wrote a blog entitled Suspicious Country, where she wrote about living with metastatic breast cancer. She wrote a memoir entitled The Bright Hour. She passed away in February 2017.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Riggs, who lives in Greensboro, N.C., was 38 when she was diagnosed with incurable metastatic breast cancer. The diagnosis comes at the onset of this moving and insightful memoir. Married to a lawyer, and the mother of two young sons, Riggs was initially told that the cancer was "one small spot," but as the memoir progresses (the sections are ominously yet cleverly named after the four "stages" of cancer), the small spot grows and spreads to her spine. She undergoes a mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, spinal surgery, and joins a clinical trial. During the same period, Riggs's wisecracking and beloved mother, who had been fighting multiple myeloma for eight years, dies. Despite the profound sadness of her situation, Riggs writes with humor; the memoir is rife with witty one-liners and musings on the joys and challenges of mothering and observations on the importance of loving relationships. The great-great-great-granddaughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Riggs frequently quotes her legendary relative and uses his writings as a guide, as well as the writings of the philosopher Montaigne, whose advice to "live with an awareness of death in the room" she takes seriously. In this tender memoir Riggs displays a keen awareness of and reverence for all the moments of life-both the light, and the dark, "the cruel, and the beautiful." (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Poet Riggs (Lucky, Lucky) has lived under the shade of both a celebrated and a disheartening family tree. The great-great-great-granddaughter of Ralph Waldo -Emerson, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, "one small spot," in her late 30s, and she can name a raft of relatives suffering from the same disease, among them her paternal grandfather. Other family cancers included her mother's multiple myeloma. This memoir travels the stages of Riggs's illness, along with the author; her husband, John; and their two boys, Freddy and Benny, as she relates past experiences and current anxieties-her cancer metastasizes and is declared incurable. Riggs quotes RWE when it fits (and it always seems to), as well as one of his subjects, philosopher Michel de -Montaigne. She reminds us that we are all in this world until we leave it; the gallows humor surrounding her mother's funeral will make readers howl guiltily but appreciatively. -VERDICT Whether confronting disease or not, everyone should read this beautifully crafted book as it imbues life and loved ones with a particularly transcendent glow. [Nina Riggs died on February 26, 2017.]-Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



The Bright Hour 1. One Small Spot The call comes when John is away at a conference in New Orleans. Let's not linger on the thin light sifting into our bedroom as I fold laundry, the last leaves shivering on the willow oak outside--preparing to let go but not yet letting go. The heat chattering in the vent. The dog working a spot on her leg. The new year hanging in the air like a question mark. The phone buzzing on the bed. It's almost noon. Out at the school, the kids must be lining up for recess, their fingers tunneling into their gloves like explorers. Cancer in the breast, the doctor from the biopsy says. One small spot. One small spot. I repeat it to John, who steps out of a breakout session when he sees my text. I repeat it to my mom, who says, "You've got to be kidding me. Not you, already." I repeat it to my dad who shows up at my house with chicken soup. I repeat it to my best friend, Tita, and she repeats it to me as we sit on the couch obsessing over all twenty words of the phone conversation with the doctor. I repeat it brushing my teeth, in the carpool line, unclasping my bra, falling asleep, walking the aisles of the grocery store, walking on the greenway, lying in the cramped, clanky cave of the MRI machine while they take a closer look. One small spot. It becomes a chant, a rallying cry. One small spot is fixable. One small spot is a year of your life. No one dies from one small spot. "Oh, breast cancer," I remember my great-aunt saying before she died at age ninety-three of heart failure. "That's something I did in the 1970s." Excerpted from The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Google Preview