Having lost eight friends in ten years, Cooley retreats to a tiny medieval village in Italy with her husband. There, in a rural paradise where bumblebees nest in the ancient cemetery and stray cats curl up on her bed, she examines a question both easily evaded and unavoidable: mortality. How do we grieve? How do we go on drinking our morning coffee, loving our life partners, stumbling through a world of such confusing, exquisite beauty?
Linking the essays is Cooley’s escalating understanding of another loss on the way, that of her ailing mother back in the States. Blind since Cooley’s childhood, her mother relies on dry wit to ward off grief and pity. There seems no way for the two of them to discuss her impending death. But somehow, by the end, Cooley finds the words, each one graceful and wrenching.
Part memoir, part loving goodbye to an unconventional parent, Guesswork transforms a year in a pastoral hill town into a fierce examination of life, love, death, and, ultimately, release.