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Started slow... lost me... and then I got it.
on November 13, 2012
Like other reviewers, I started out reading this as if it were an autobiography. I quickly realized it was fiction, but it wasn't any less meaningful once I figured that out. It was a short story, and there were parts that I wished had been given more attention. The beginning wasn't one of those parts. I could have skipped the beginning altogether.
Let's face it, the beginning was slow. There were times when it was even tedious. It was all existential and didn't truly seem real or meaningful at all, except in the abstract. The narrator just kind of lost me a lot of times when he was isolated and desolate after the initial diagnosis. Don't get me wrong, there were some interesting moments. The interaction between the narrator and his surgeon just after his surgery was the first time when this story finally hooked me. There was a moment of grace there. But from the beginning of the story until just before and after surgery, it all kind of felt flat. Even after the narrator returns home, there is something like a void of realness. Like the author was just going through the motions of setting up the character for when things actually start to be real and come into focus. The times when the narrator was just ruminating and philosophizing without any interaction with others were often tedious. Maybe that's the point of the story? Interactions, no matter how awkward or unexpected, make our experiences real and meaningful... whereas just having an internal dialogue, no matter how well intended, or how meaningful it is to the narrator, is just... lacking something. Then again, maybe that just leaves the door open for something more meaningful.
After surgery, and finding himself very much alone, at home, and just waiting for death to come, the narrator decides to host a carnival for all the kids (and families) he hoped were in his neighborhood, but whom he had never paid any attention to before. He just took for granted that they were there. And suddenly, he decided to engage with them. That was the beginning of the REALLY interesting part of the story. As he is coming to terms with his own mortality, he meets someone who is also trying to come to terms with mortality, but from the perspective of already having lost someone, or having let someone go. Together, they find that they can both embrace life and the process of dying and letting go in a way that they had never expected, but that is healing for both of them. From there, reading to the end was an emotionally rewarding journey. This is a story of redemption and embracing life and connection. Even if each voice in the story started out all alone, they finally find a connection, and the story ends in a remarkable sense of peace in the conscious act of letting go.