How do you carry on after the loss of a child? What if it's a child you never kissed, never held, never named beyond a loving prenatal nickname?

Elizabeth McCracken lost her first son nine months into her pregnancy. She and her husband, Edward, were living in France, a place she now says she will never visit again. Days before her due date, the full-term baby they called Pudding simply died inside her. The autopsy revealed no cause.

Her memoir of that year is searing, excruciatingly sad and occasionally howlingly funny. (Black humor, she says, is "that odd, reliable comfort that billows up at the worst moments, like a beautiful sunset woven out of the smoke over a bombed city." Black humor, she says, is proof that there is a God.)

McCracken is sensible and thoughtful; you're on her side from the beginning. She is sad, but without self-pity. Her devastating black humor punctuates the narrative, and when you laugh it's OK, because you understand her desire that Pudding be remembered with pleasure, not pain.

She and Edward have a second child now, "a nice, everyday baby," but Pudding is always in her thoughts. "I'm not ready for my first child to fade into history," McCracken writes, and trust me, there is no chance of that, because the book that Pudding's mother wrote about him -- wrote for him-- is unforgettable.