Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Book Review: "The Language of Dying" by Sarah Pinborough

"It's been a long few months and, even though time has folded from the first diagnosis to now, my body and soul know that I have lived through every painful second of it. They sing it to me through aching limbs and a torn heart."

A woman's father is in the last few days of his life, as he is dying from cancer. She has cared for him through his illness, watching his body and his mind deteriorate. She wants his suffering to end, but fears what the end of that suffering will mean for her life.

Her siblings have all come to the house they grew up in, now her house, to pay their last respects. Their family has been fractured emotionally for years, with each of them having suffered traumas, some known and some hidden. But even coming together for one purpose, saying goodbye to their father, is fraught with disaster.

The woman herself has had her share of trauma and tragedy, which has left her angry, somewhat unstable, and knowing she may never have the chance to be happy ever again. But she has given everything she has to care for his father and make his last days as comfortable and secure as possible.

Ever since she was a child, she has had visions of a nameless presence, hulking, alone, and waiting for her. She only sees it at certain moments, and she knows that it will come again. But it is a reunion she fears and welcomes, because what will it mean for her if she finally connects with it?

Sarah Pinborough's Behind Her Eyes (see my original review) was tremendously unforgettable because of its WTF ending, but also because of how her storytelling ability helped the book transcend an immensely implausible plot. But as strong as her writing was in that book, it really didn't prepare me for the sheer power and beauty of her writing in The Language of Dying.

Stripped of any artifice, there is poetry and emotion that characterizes Pinborough's writing in this book. Anyone who has seen a loved one suffer from a terminal illness will probably recognize some of the feelings and situations the narrator experiences, the simultaneous desire and dread that the person's battle will end. But while there are certainly moments that may make you cry, this is not an emotionally manipulative book, but rather a tremendously contemplative one.

If the pain of loss is still fresh, reading this book may reopen those wounds. But this is an immensely beautiful book, one which demands to be read, one which will wow and dazzle on the power of its words and its emotions.

NetGalley and Quercus (US) provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

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