Bigger than Life


Bigger than Life

A Murder, a Memoir

Dinah Lenney

American Lives Series

248 pages


July 2011


$17.95 Add to Cart

March 2007


$29.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Nelson Gross led an outsized life—one in which he played many roles: father, brother, husband, politician, entrepreneur. When he was killed by a couple of teenagers in a botched abduction and robbery, the murder shook his family in predictable and terrible ways. For his daughter, Dinah Lenney, parent of her own young children, the loss sparked a self-reckoning that led to this book, which is both a meditation on grief and a coming-of-age story. By turns funny and sad, frustrating and fulfilling, her candid memoir conducts readers through marriage and divorce, blended and broken families—and, finally, the kinds of conflict that infect the best of us under even the best of circumstances.
In the end, Lenney leaves us with the sense that in spite of extraordinary events—as with most families—it is mutual forgiveness and love that lead us to empathy, acceptance, and the will to carry on.

Author Bio

Dinah Lenney’s essays and reviews have appeared the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Ploughshares, Agni, Creative Nonfiction, Brevity, Kenyon Review Online, and elsewhere. She received a Special Mention for her work in the Water-Stone Review and the 2010 Pushcart Prize anthology. Lenney has a BA from Yale University and an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars, where she serves as a member of the core faculty. She also teaches in the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, as well as in the Master of Professional Writing program at the University of Southern California. A working actor in theatre, film, and television, Lenney co-authored Acting for Young Actors and has guest-starred on numerous television shows. You can visit her websites at  and

Table of Contents

1. Prologue: Eliza Wants to Know
2. The Contents of the File
3. The Last Visit
4. Missing
5. Just Business
6. Still Missing
7. Driving Lessons
8. Waiting
9. My Old Man
10. The House with the Gate
11. I Remember
12. Albert and Rose
13. Acting
14. Eulogies
15. Christmas with Dogs
16. Looking for Crumbs
17. The Drama of the Not Particularly Gifted Child
18. October, 1998
19. Mementos
20. Messages Received
21. Nelson and Leah
22. Coming and Going
23. Mythology
24. Two Fathers
25. My Father under My Fingernails
26. Resentment
27. Conjecture
28. Uncles
29. Recovery
30. Keeping in Touch
31. Family Gifts
32. After Life
33. A Pretty Good Day
34. Coda

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