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story behind the book | kate tuttle

Getting to know a parent after death

david wilson for the boston globe

Lisa Romeo, a faculty member at Bay Path University’s creative writing program, is a veteran in the classroom. “In all of my teaching,” Romeo said, “my biggest piece of advice is always to try something that makes you feel uncomfortable, try the thing that scares you, try the thing you think you can’t do on the page.”

But when confronted with her own work — a series of essays about her late father — it was a few years before Romeo could take her own advice. “I was writing all these different pieces, each about a different slice of grief, of the father-daughter relationship,” she said. “So I thought, ‘Well, I’ve been avoiding trying to write this memoir and that’s the thing I have to do.’ ”


The result is “Starting With Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love after Loss,” in which Romeo reckons with a father she loved but often sparred with. A self-made man, her father was smart and generous, but difficult for his youngest daughter to understand. “After he was gone, I had this overwhelming urge to figure out why we didn’t always see eye-to-eye, why it was we weren’t closer,” Romeo said. “In fact we had all these things in common. He was a writer, although he never published anything; he was very artistic, loved poetry, loved to read. I couldn’t see all that before.”

Learning more about him, she added, brought some regret that they hadn’t been closer. “I think we never give our parents enough credit,” Romeo said. “I wish I had been a better listener.”

Readers have told Romeo they can relate to her book, and her struggle to get to know her father after his death. “I’ve heard from a lot of people who tell me that they also talk to their relatives who’ve passed away,” she said. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if somebody reads it and feels that they’ve been validated or found something that makes them feel they’re not alone?”


Romeo will read at 7 p.m. Thursday at Newtonville Books.

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Kate Tuttle, president of the National Book Critics Circle, can be reached at