The Language of DyingThe Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough
My rating: 4/5 cats
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this is kind of like a grownup version of A Monster Calls. it’s not a perfect readalike, but it features the same kind of magical realism spin on the experience of death and the grieving process, complete with a supernatural manifestation of that process – all rage and pain and hoof-stomping power.

however, the magic in this is not central to the story – it is an occasional grace note in an otherwise unflinchingly realistic depiction of a woman’s experience caring for her beloved father as cancer devours him piece by piece.

there’s nothing gentle or sugar-coated here; this isn’t about the nobility of facing death after a life well-lived, or clinging to life and family with grit and determination, fighting disease with willpower and love. it’s more medical journal than hallmark card – unsparing in its descriptions of the deterioration of the body and mental state of the terminally ill, through the eyes of a loving daughter who isn’t ready to let go of her father; uncertain of what her world will become once he is gone. in this tiny book, we are taken through the memories of her life and her father’s place in it, in sickness and in health, and how his passing will likely sever all ties between five siblings already scattered by their life choices.

it’s only 130 pages, the narrator isn’t even given a name, and it ends on a symbolic and highly ambiguous note, but it doesn’t lose any of its potency for being so streamlined and open to interpretation, because the parts that matter, the parts that resonate and speak to the thing that binds us all – our mortality – are very well-explored, indeed, whether death comes for us suddenly, or as a horrible slow decline. (see who by fire or The Gashlycrumb Tinies for some of the variety of ways we can be felled)

many thanks to kristin KC for her generous contribution to my appreciation of all things sad, even though, alas – no weeping from me.

wow. i don’t even know what to make of this one yet. need to let the emotional sediment settle.

i’ll be back.

read my reviews on goodreads

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