Thursday, August 4, 2016

It's a Dark Night Inside: The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough

Caring for a dying parent is a universal and timeless experience. Some children hover, an administering angel, while others stay in distant denial; some vent their anger at the gods or fate that they are being left, or being left to care, while others eagerly await the freedom that parental death can sometimes bring to a child. It is a time when we face the past and the future, forgive or hold on to resentment, become the child our parent always wished for, or being cut loose can finally become ourself.
The Language of Dying is an honest and moving journey into the soul and heart of a daughter caring for her father's last days. Her dysfunctional family, which has "so much colour that the brightness is damaging", comes together briefly to the family home.

There is the older sister Penny, a 'glowing' woman who hides behind a 'Gucci persona', full of excuses why she did not take on their father's care.

Older brother Paul is a dominating and charming man addicted to excesses. and who disappears for months at a time.

The twin boys are the youngest, beset with demons. Davey, dually addicted, tenuously holding onto sanity and sobriety, and lost Simon whose self-destructive dive began when abused by a trusted older man.

And our heroine, victim of an abusive marriage, struggling to repair her life, who cares for her dying father day and night.

Their shared past is their parent's alcoholism and break-up, but our heroine alone sees the wild, red eyed creature, wonderful and waiting for her.

"Love is hard to kill," she thinks, like life, and the family bounds hold tenuously.

Pingborough's insightful writing captures the emotional life of her narrator. It is also beautiful and memorable writing.

My father died of non-Hodgkins lymphoma and spent over two months in the hospital and one day in the hospital Hospice. Every day I went to the hospital at 9 am and left when my brother arrived at 5 pm. My brother and I were with dad his last days. The language of dying, the special lingo of death, the practices of caring for the terminally ill and the strange rituals that become everyday is captured in this moving novel.

But there is another level to the story, the wild creature that comes in the night to lure our heroine to another world.
"Well, now that we have seen each other', said the Unicorn,/'If you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you.' Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There
She first saw the vision the night her mother left the family. It haunts her at pivotal moments in her life, a summons to come away. Call it fantasy, magic, or projection, in this novella the unicorn represents a place of belonging and the freedom of new life. "This creature and I belong together. I know it and so does he," she thinks. He is nothing like the archetypal unicorn, he is black not white, his horn is twisted and deformed. He brings her "joy, pure and bright" before disappearing into the night. She knows it waits for her. When will she be ready to follow?

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

The Language of Dying
Sarah Pinborough
Quercus
Publication August 2, 2016
$9.99 ebook
ISBN: 9781681444345