Brisk, unsentimental, but kind advice about death and dying is what is dispensed in Advice for Future Corpses (and Those Who Love Them): A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying. It is written by a plaintive care nurse who wastes no time informing her readership that dying at home may sound good, but may exhaust your family, that cremation is bad for the ozone layer, and that true compassion means not forcing our solution onto the sick and dying–from eating more lunch to submitting to a surgical procedure.
It was somewhat surprising to me that someone so obviously practical would write a book that can be discursive and also very personal. It’s certainly a book that held my attention.
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!