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Evening Hardcover – October 6, 1998
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As Ann Lord lies on her deathbed, her daughter delivers a balsam pillow from the attic. At first the ailing woman is confused, but suddenly the scent reminds her of the "wild tumult" she experienced 40 years earlier:
Something stole into her as she walked in the dark, a dream she'd had long ago. The air was so black she was unable to see her arms, it was a warm summer night. Above her she could make out the dark line of the tops of spruce trees and a sky lit with stars. She felt the warm tar through the soles of her shoes. The boy beside her took her hand.In the porous world between conscious and unconscious the protagonist of Evening revisits the great passions of her life, along with its considerable disappointments. The boy in the dark remains the fixed point--not so much because he is the most important man in her life, but because of the untapped possibilities he represents. Meanwhile, friends and relations come to sit by Ann Lord's side as she veers between clarity and feverish recollection.
In her third novel, Susan Minot takes some new risks--her narrative spanning seven decades of memory and her style ranging from Stegneresque particularity to the exquisite abstraction Virginia Woolf perfected in To the Lighthouse. Equal parts memory and desire, fiction and poetry, Evening is a seductive story made more so by the measured pace of details emerging, one by one, like stars. --Cristina Del Sesto
From Publishers Weekly
A dying woman's abiding passion for a lover she met in her 20s propels this eloquent third novel by the gifted author of Monkeys and Folly. As 65-year-old cancer patient Ann Grant Lord drifts in and out of a morphine-induced haze, her recollections range back and forth between 1954 and 1994, mulling over the influences that have shaped her life. In particular, she clings to the memory of Harris Arden, the young doctor she met at the wedding of her best friend, Lila Wittenborn, and their brief affair, which he ended to marry another. Resigned to a life without bliss, Ann subsequently sang in cabarets and accumulated husbands, survived motherhood, widowhood and the death of her 12-year-old son but never knew another passion like the one she felt for Harris. With insight and sensitivity, Minot sketches the small daily travails of the deathbed vigils shared by Ann's friends and step-siblings and keeps tension high by skillfully foreshadowing (or back-shadowing) certain of the novel's largest, saddest events, all the while withholding longed-for particulars. The day after the wedding, we eventually learn, the Wittenborns suffered a crushing loss. The juxtaposition of Ann's heartbreak with the more universal tragedy that affected her friend's family accentuates the novel's achingly poignant climax. As the end nears, Ann's drug-induced hallucinations, memories and imagined conversations with Harris all merge into one roiling stream in which Minot's flair for dramatization comes to the fore, rendering her heroine's experience of love at first sight plausible and enviable. Minot has created in Ann a woman whose ardent past allows her to face death while savoring the exhilaration that marked her full and passionate life. Editor, Jordan Pavlin; agent, Georges Borchardt; Random House audio.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Now at the end of her life Ann Grant Lord lies in her bed. She is dying from cancer and each day the pain gets worse. Her children from her three marriages gather round and keep a death vigil while Ann mentally slips back in time to that weekend in 1955 when she fell in love. Her memories of that weekend become mixed with memories of her three marriages and with the hallucinations brought on by the heavy pain medicines she is taking.
This is an interesting book; highly imaginative in the way that it is written. The reader is taken on a roller-coaster ride through the mind of a dying woman who mentally reviews her life and still wonders what if she had married her young Chicago doctor. Throughout the narrative she is speaking to a male entity - it is never clear if that person is at her bedside in substance or only in spirit. We are led to believe that it is her young beau from 1955. She relives that fateful weekend in great detail although the memories are mixed with memories of other men (her three husbands) and other places she has been. Her children are the buzzards circling her deathbed. Nurse Brown is the voice of reason who writes her reports on her patient in a clinical manner that is much needed after the ramblings of the elderly Ann.
For me this book gave insight into the final days and hours of a person who has accepted her fate, knows she is about to die, and embraces the end. Everything else is secondary. A thought-provoking story that I finished in under a week.
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As Ann Lord lies on her deathbed, her daughter delivers a balsam pillow from the attic.Read more