Happy book birthday to HOLDEN, AFTER AND BEFORE: LOVE LETTER FOR A SON LOST TO OVERDOSE by Tara McGuire, out today from Arsenal Pulp Press!

In this unforgettable book, Tara McGuire weaves together two strands: her own story of mourning the death of her son Holden, a talented graffiti artist, and the imagined story of Holden’s life. It is deeply moving, and it feels true – not in the sense of being documentary, but in the sense that art strives to share truth about the world and our time in it. At the end of the book Holden’s friends paint a mural portrait of him and add his name on the wall. In this remarkable testament, Tara has found her own signature as an artist, etched from love. -Alix Ohlin, author of We Want What We Want

Holden After and Before is a brave, honest, unspeakably painful but simultaneously beautiful attempt by a ‘mother who was a light bulb striking pavement’ to come to terms with her young son’s life and death. Once I began reading, I could not tear myself from this account, which offers a rich tapestry of memoir and fiction – basically, anything Tara McGuire could recall, discover or imagine – about her son Holden, who died accidentally at age twenty-one after he ingested a toxic mix of alcohol and heroin. As I read, Tara McGuire enveloped me with her empathy, her desperate hunger to make sense of the senseless, and her humanity. She inspired me with her courageous and unflinching journey – in the wake of any parent’s worst nightmare – to become a writer as a means of honouring her lost son. -Lawrence Hill, author of The Book of Negroes

Holden After and Before is both an honest, searching exploration of maternal grief and a deeply felt investigation into the meaning of motherhood itself. If you have raised a child, you will find yourself on every page of this book. -Joanna Rakoff, author of My Salinger Year

Loss is a sledgehammer—and also a feather—this is what Tara’s book so aptly walks the reader through. The unimaginable weight of the pain that we all have to endure when we suddenly and tragically experience the death of a beloved child. Learning to swim in an ocean of grief is not something any of us want to do—but at some point, grief will find us all and reshape our futures. This book is a love letter of sorts- and a secret diary. I enjoyed it greatly. – Jann Arden, singer, songwriter, and author of If I Knew Then 

Holden After and Before is a moving meditation on grief in the same vein as Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk: a stunning book that traces Tara McGuire’s excavation and documentation of the life path of her son, Holden, a graffiti artist who died of an accidental opioid overdose at the age of twenty-one. Beginning with Holden’s death and leaping through time and space, McGuire employs fact, investigation, memory, fantasy, and even fabrication in her search for understanding, not only of her son’s tragic death, but also of his beautiful life. She navigates and writes across many blank spaces to form a story of discovery and humanity, examining themes of grief, pain, mental illness, trauma, creative expression, identity, and deep, unending love inside just one of the thousands of deaths that has occurred as a result of the opioid crisis.

With poignant honesty and a heart laid bare, Holden After and Before is a beautiful and moving elegy to a son lost to overdose.

Tara McGuire is a former broadcaster turned writer whose essays and poetry have appeared in several magazines and on CBC Radio. She is a graduate of The Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University and holds an MFA from the University of British Columbia School of Creative Writing. Holden, After and Before is her first book. Tara is represented by Marilyn Biderman.