Although Trachtenberg’s broad reporting uncovers answers from high-profile sufferers, he offers no ten-point wrap-ups or pithy statements on the possibilities of calamity bringing redemption. It can be chaotically rendered, his subjects seem to say, but the chaos it ignites in one’s life is malleable and changeable. And change can be for the good (the mother who lost a son at 9/11 and now runs schools for girls in Afghanistan) or for the worse (the suicide of Trachtenberg’s good friend at the end of the book). Just ask Job, who knew a thing or two about calamity and learned that life continues forward despite its presence in our lives.
Janet Kinosian, a Los Angeles-based journalist, writes for The Los Angeles Times, Reader's Digest, and dozens of other publications. She previously reviewed The Classmates: Privilege, Chaos, and the End of an Era on AARP The Magazine Online.