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Blue Ink Review

In this concise memoir, Lorene Holizki explains how she endured after her 16-year-old daughter, Kalei, died in an automobile accident. It’s a painful story, but in explaining her grief process, Holizki offers a blueprint to parents who have lost a child and insight to others wanting to support traumatized parents.

Holizki divides the book into three parts: life before the collision — a time when she became pregnant during a Hawaiian fling, then returned home to Alberta, Canada, to raise her infant with her parents’ help; the crash and its immediate aftermath; and life without Kalei.

Kalei died in 2001, but Holizki’s descriptions of her anguish are vivid and fresh. In the first year, she creates a “sixth-sense universe” to connect with Kalei’s spirit and a “regular universe” where she goes through the motions of real life. This invention allows for conversations with her angel daughter in which Kalei tells her not to hate others for her death but to step into a future based on love. Eventually, Holizki reconciles those universes.

Holizki weaves descriptions of events, such as returning unworn clothing Kalei had bought, with inspiring stories of her own spiritual growth. She works hard to turn “regular universe” pain into larger lessons. Holizki wrestles with a way to answer when people unaware of Kalei’s death ask if she has children. She comes up with a comfortable response: “I am forever Kalei’s mom.” It tells people she has a child who died, she is still her mom and she’s OK with talking about it – and she hopes the world adopts that phrasing.

Holizki’s brisk pace and firm focus omit extraneous information, including details about “regular universe” issues such as her job and friends. Readers may be left wondering, though, how Holizki’s parents coped with the loss and whether Kalei’s biological father was part of her life.

Honest and never preachy, Forever Kalei’s Mom advances our conversation about life, death and the complicated world of grief.


Kirkus Review

Deeply affecting memoir on the loss of a child, by business analyst and mother Holizki.

After enjoying a close mother-daughter relationship during Kalei’s childhood, single mom Holizki and her teenage daughter began to clash. Kalei became friends with a wild group of classmates and was acting out after the end of Holizki’s long-term relationship with Gene. However, in the summer of 2001, Kalei seemed to be ready to turn her life around—renewing friendships with junior high buddies and vowing to pay more attention to her schoolwork. First, she wanted one last outing with her other friends, a camping trip before a friend moved cross-country. Despite reservations, Holizki agreed. Early on the morning of Aug. 20, 2001, Holizki received the telephone call every parent fears: Kalei had been in a very bad car accident. Worse yet, because she and the other girls were not carrying identification, law enforcement couldn’t immediately tell Holizki whether or not her daughter survived. With brutal, heart-wrenching honesty, Holizki shares the hours, days, and years after her only daughter’s death. At times, she was unabashedly bitter and angry, as people couldn’t comprehend the “unspeakable” loss she suffered; instead, they offered clichéd, often unintentionally cruel platitudes. Holizki traces her horrible, unimaginable journey, not presuming to provide a self-help guide for parents facing similar heartbreak. What works for her may not be ideal for other mourners, and by the same token, she wishes others would not assume they know what’s best for her. Holizki’s insistence on using the word “dead”—often spelling it out for emphasis: “Kalei is dead—d-e-a-d. Dead. I don’t know what that means”—reflects the finality of the catastrophe. She is saved by her firm belief that Kalei remains close; the memoir’s title perfectly encapsulates her attitude.

Not always an easy or pleasant read but an unforgettable one.