Now and at the Hour
By Robert Cormier
By Richard E. Noble
"Now and at the hour ... of our death, amen" is a line from a prayer many of us said as children, the Hail Mary. This book is a fictional description of the hour of the author's father's death, I imagine.
Alph Leblanc had bone cancer. We meet Alph in his doctor's office after a stay at the hospital. The doctor is tight-lipped. The doctor doesn't tell Alph that he is going to die. He treats him and tells him what to do and how to cope. Alph has serious pain. He returns home to his bedroom where we watch him as he deteriorates and discovers and attempts to adjust to his fate.
This is a pathetic tale.
My mother's father died of throat cancer. He starved to death and his wife and children had to watch. This tale reminds me of some of the stories she used to tell me. Like how her father would ask her mother to bake an apple pie so that he could smell it cooking all day. Then when it was finished, she would serve him a slice. He would put a bite of pie into his mouth, chew it, and savor the flavor. Then he would spit it all out into a garbage can set by his chair. He couldn't swallow. If he did he would throw up.
I have often thought as a writer of how to write such a story and I imagine that is exactly what Robert Cormier tried to do with this book about the last hours of his father's death.
Robert delves into his imagination and tries to present to the reader and to himself what his father must have been thinking.
I would not say that the book is excessively deep or that it delves into any great theological questions. It skims along the chasms of deep religious and theological thought and deals with these things as a simple man of modest means and metal attributes would.
The questions of why such pain and what kind of a god would do this to one of his simple creations is left for the reader to pose to himself.
Alph suffers as a poor, simple man. His questions are basic. We see his family coming and going into his bedroom. We feel their pain as they hide their suffering from him. We watch as they try to smile and go about the everyday things of bringing their loved one comfort and compassion.
It is a very sad story. It is a description of pain, suffering and dying. You will find no answers here, but the questions become more vivid if you are the type to be asking such questions. There is no mystery. There is no deception. You will know what is happening. It will end as you figured it would. But when you are finished and you set this book on your night table, you will reflect upon it.
This is a good book.
Richard Noble - The Hobo Philosopher - Author of:
"Just Hangin' Out, Ma" Anecdotes - Lawrence, Mass