Literary Nonfiction. Women's Studies. Memoir. Selected by Cheryl Strayed for the Kore Press Institute Memoir Award. CERTAIN AND IMPOSSIBLE EVENTS begins in April 1994, with the suicide of a fourteen-year-old boy in a small New England town. The boy left behind no trail of warning signs and no suicide note, only a series of rumors that connected his actions to the suicide of Kurt Cobain, whose death had become international front-page news a week earlier.
Drawn to the hazy circumstances of her classmate's death, Candace Jane Opper embarks on an unsentimental investigation into the personal and cultural echo an individual suicide can produce. Fusing memoir with history and science, she gradually reveals the shape of suicide as it is handed down to us--from literature to YouTube, from middle school health class to sociological study, from the immutability of objects to the fluidity of oral history. In this stunning and candid epistolary essay, Opper invites readers into her decades-long obsession with a boy she barely knew, creating space for a kind of radical grief that exists outside the ordinary boundaries of mourning.
CERTAIN AND IMPOSSIBLE EVENTS] is a decades long examination of the hierarchy of grief and the nature of personal obsession.--Megan Stielstra
CERTAIN AND IMPOSSIBLE EVENTS is unlike anything I've ever read. It's a powerfully original exploration of the many meanings of suicide and a beautifully written memoir of a particular kind of loss. I was impressed with the intellectual curiosity of this book, and also with its emotional rigor. With astonishing insight and candor, the author drew me into the endlessly unfolding mystery of her decades-long obsession with her teenage crush, a boy she scarcely knew, who killed himself at 14. CERTAIN AND IMPOSSIBLE EVENTS is both a clear-eyed tour de force about suicide and an intimate and ultimately poignant portrait of one woman coming to grips with an experience that inexplicably shaped her. Perhaps most of all, I loved the quality of the prose. I was in this talented writer's thrall from page one.--Cheryl Strayed
CERTAIN AND IMPOSSIBLE EVENTS is a stunning gutpunch of a memoir for the heart and for the head. In laser-sharp, near-cinematic prose, Candace Opper both remembers and discovers the childhood friend lost to suicide, a decades-long examination of the hierarchy of grief and the nature of personal obsession. I kept putting the book down to remind myself to breathe. I kept picking it up to find out what happened next. I'll keep picking it up for what it shows me about this beautiful mess of a world and how I can better walk through it.--Megan Stielstra
About the Author
Candace Jane Opper is a writer, a mother, and an occasional visual artist. She grew up in the woods of Southern Connecticut, in a house that alarmingly resembles the one from The Amityville Horror, where she learned to embrace the value of unconventionality. She holds an MFA in Nonfiction Writing from Portland State University and spent her undergraduate years in Providence studying Film History--a discipline her college advisor fondly described as the second most pointless major next to Art History, which she promptly declared as her minor. Opper's essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Longreads, Guernica, Creative Nonfiction, LitHub, Narratively, Brevity, and Vestoj, among others. She is a Creative Nonfiction Foundation Fellowship recipient and a member on the advisory council for Write Pittsburgh, a program collective that empowers writers to amplify their voices and strengthen their communities. CERTAIN AND IMPOSSIBLE EVENTS (Kore Press, 2021) is her first book.