The Rules of Inheritance recalls the author’s struggles after both of her parents were diagnosed with cancer and died when she was teenager to young adult. She drank too much, got into ill-advised relationships, and generally felt alone and orphaned. She seems to blame her problems squarely on her loss, which may be too easy of an assignment. The best part of the book for me was her recalling her parents and their relationship.
I loved Kang’s The Vegetarian, but The White Book , an elegiac, impressionistic fugue on the color white, inspired by the death of an older sister, was just not my thing.
The author of Joy Enough was unlucky enough to see her mother sicken and die and her husband walk out on her at the same time. Such bad luck! And there are a few heart-melting moments in the memoir, as when the members of her mother’s book club show up, spontaneously, to clean the house after her death. But the story, however tragic, seems rather ordinary otherwise.
In The Shades, a family loses a daughter to a car accident and each member moves in their own direction. The dad continues his life in London, and hopes, passively, that his wife will go back to their old life. The mom becomes obsessed by a mysterious young woman. The son decides to chuck it all and fight for ecological justice, having latched on to a charismatic teacher at the boarding school where he fled.
In truth, they seem to have been already broken before the death, and the family too. There are some excellent psychological observations, in particular of the son, but the story never quite came together for me.
I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death is a memoir in the form of, yes, 17 brushes with death! The stories alternate from recent to distant past, and as they unfold we discover more details about the author’s disastrous childhood encephalitis, her worldwide wanderings, and her daughter’s deathly allergies. So yes, you DO want to read about 17 brushes with death; don’t be squeamish.
The Friend is a clever novel within a novel that apparently focuses (very movingly) on loss, grief, and love between humans and dogs, but it’s also the story of a great friendship and a woman who might lose her mind to an obsession. Excellent!
Another book about death, so soon after My Father’s Wake? The Book of Resting Places: A Personal History of Where We Lay the Dead was also inspired by the death of the author’s father, but instead of campaigning for a different way of dying this author instead describes cryonics, an antique dealer with right-wing rants, the paintings of Canaletto, Catacomb-dwelling bacteria, and family history — in other words he travels widely and chaotically, always with a wonderful writing style but the result is quite chaotic, and lost my interest.