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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

"Torch" by Cheryl Strayed

In the first chapter a woman is told that she has incurable cancer; she will be dead within the year. The next two chapters in which she attempts to tell her kids, who are reacting like kids react to their mother, the teenage adolescent boy with surly anger and the college student girl with the expectation that all this will just be her mother manipulating her, are truly hard to read because you know how awful these utterly normal kids will feel when they realise that their mum is not for ever. Brilliantly realistic.

And then she dies and it continues, chapter after chapter, as these three bereaved people, husband/ step-father, daughter and son, muddle through mistake after mistake on their tragic journey through grief to acceptance. Life needs to be lived and if they haven't forgotten her they have to move on, mostly by fucking other people in a instinctive if primitive response to replace death with birth.

Chapter after chapter was so hard to read. Everything was so mundane, so everyday, so utterly in your face brutally real, and I had to go on, like Bruce and Claire and Joshua, because you have to go on to find out what they next day brings, even though you dread what it might reveal. Even though you are shouting at the character 'don't do that' you know they will and they are the better person for it.

Here is a moment in which reality intrudes into authorness. Joshua is being asked by a counsellor how he feels: “He felt sleepy and hungry and he yearned for a cigarette, but he thought it unwise to mention any of those things.” (C 15) This book so ups reality!

Unbelievably good.

A few, a sparse selection, of the wonderful moments:

  • She ached. As if her spine were a zipper and someone had come up behind her and unzipped it and pushed his hands into her organs and squeezed, as if they were butter or dough, or grapes to be smashed for wine.” (C 1)
  • junk mail, addressed to him in computer-generated cursive handwriting, a trick disguised as something real.” (C 4)
  • The three of them had the same hair. Not blond, not brown, but something in between: the faded yellow of grass where an animal had slept.” (C 5)
  • she had to weed the garden that she’d planted.” (C 5)
  • Slowly, stingily, she forgave them without their knowing about it.” (C 5)
  • It was the exact size of the hole in the solar eclipse paper plate, a pin of light through which the entire sun could radiate, so bright it would blind you if you looked.” (C 5)
  • She saw her parents in their most distilled form, being precisely who they’d always been. The people who sent her garbage in the mail. The people who made her cry each Sunday. The people who would gladly give their lives to save hers.” (C 5)
  • She felt numb and stuffed and fuzzy, weightless and yet weighted. As if her veins had been filled with wet feathers.” (C 5)
  • He’d been bullied, throughout his childhood and adolescence, to tell her whether she was fat, whether she should get highlights in her hair, whether her butt seemed hideously large, or her thighs too squat. Whatever he said, she never believed him or took his advice; she simply presented the same questions to him all over again the next time.” (C 6)
  • ‘It isn’t that I am against faith,’ she said warily. ‘I’m against the thinking that says that humans are shameful and bad’.” (C 7)
  • He wondered if it were possible to add up all the people he’d thanked over the course of his entire life, whether that sum would be equal to the number of people he thanked on the one day that his wife’s body was to be sealed in a wooden box, shoved into an incinerator, and burned, at an extremely high temperature, to ashes.” (C 8)
  • He thought of his mother, of parts of her he had never thought about before, of her lungs and her brain, her heart and her hands.” (C 10)
  • She couldn’t see David anymore in the light that she’d seen him before, and she didn’t know whether this new way of seeing him had been distorted by her grief or unveiled by it. Whether her life with him was fraudulent or the best thing she had."
  • "She came to see that her grief did not have an end, or if it did, she would not be delivered there. Grief was not a road or a river or a sea but a world, and she would have to live there now.” (C 11)
  • Claire wondered about her youth. This was it, she supposed, and it seemed that it would go on and on and on. It wasn’t a pleasant thought. It was like walking across a desert without a hat.” (C 11)
  • he would stop loving her. Of course he would. How easy it was not to love her.” (C 11)
  • He’d heard it already, all around town, without actually having to hear the words. So soon, so soon, like an inane bird swooping over his head, calling to him everywhere he went.” (C 15)
  • He wanted to promise her something, to say that things would go back to the way they were, or that they would be different than they had become, but he loved her too much to lie and needed her too little to make it true.” (C 15)
  • each night he would allow himself to cry, but only for thirty seconds.” (C 16)
  • She was suddenly giddy with the foreignness of being here, which collided with an almost surreal familiarity.” (C 17)
December 2018;



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