Wednesday, December 23, 2009
This is the beautiful book that I just couldn't bear to finish. It is quite easy to understand why this book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. The language is beautiful - overwhelming in places, and the preservation of the multiple points of view of this family concerning their husband/father/family member's death is absolutely heart-wrenching. It is a literary masterpiece that takes you to places both dark and poignant. Which is where my problem lay, honestly. The story of a father's death still resonates a little too strongly with me, even so many years after Daddy has been gone. Reading the story - from Mary's, Rufus', Catherine's points of view - was overwhelming in many ways. I found myself so entranced with their emotions, feelings, and experience that their emotional turmoil became my own. I was inexplicably depressed here at Christmastime, mourning a man who, had he lived on from his death by accident, would have been naturally deceased years before my birth. And yet, that isn't particularly true. It wasn't his death. It was the impact upon the lives of those who loved him. It was the lasting hole, the festering wound, and the painful scar that is undoubtedly, indelibly left upon this family after the closing pages of the novel. It rocks all but the most grounded faiths. It brings no absolution, no peace. Only the certainty that one must move on from loss. My first sentence is true. I didn't finish it completely. I made it to page 285 of my edition and honestly could bear no more. The cruelty of the priest round about the page 260 mark about pushed me over the edge. But ultimately, it was the pain of the children. Too honest. Too intense. Too real. Perhaps one day I will return and finish the last few pages of this book. But, whether I do or do not return, one thing is certain. It has passed what is my own personal "test of great literature" - I will be thinking about this book for many years to come with that unsatisfied, aching feeling. A book that does not stop speaking with it's last page - THAT is the mark of great literature, and *A Death in the Family* certainly qualifies.