A gift for those who grieve, this exquisite, in all senses of the word, novella is a lesson in bearing the unbearable.
Michel Rostain, wonderful, marvellous, magnificent man that he clearly is, has fashioned his terrible heartbreak into something of truly great value. With a sibling relationship to Joan Didier's `A Year of Magical Thinking' and `Lovely Bones' , `Son' is the big brother of such loss memoirs, a giant astride the chasm between the ordinary day to day life we lead and the terror of the other side, when the worst possible thing happens to a family.
Lion, their beloved only child, died quite unexpectedly, at 21, of meningitis. His mother Martine and father Michel stumbled, lost and bewildered, through the following days and years, moving towards a realization that they were promised on day one, that `you can live with it'. How they got there, the revelations that touched and taught them along the way, should be compulsory reading. A classic.
So don't even pick this up unless you have a few spare hours to give in to the writing. It is part reality, part fiction and attempts to explain the unexplainable. Lion is no spooky supernatural presence; he is real to them and us, speaking to us `in the easy way ... always used'. His observation of his parents sorrow is balanced and cool, watchful and kind but from a great distance. This is easy to go along with and makes the slow unfolding of the seven stages of grief a work to watch.
Towards the end there are exciting developments which cheer and encourage, excite and please. The close friendships enjoyed and nurtured by Lion's parents offer another dimension, sharing and caring in the most beautiful way. Their lifelong joy in music, singing, and theatre, which is their working life, blossoms and blooms over their pain. An important trip away to Iceland settles and soothes. Goodness prevails and offers balm. `Dad' refuses the anodyne, the everyday, the accepted wisdom. He stubbornly holds fast against madness, unbelievable experiences, all must have explanations. However such revenances, dreams, gifts or `postcards' as my friend who lost her 21 year old daughter calls them, will happen. A message comes from Lion's narrative that reassures and calms.
`Son' demands huge respect for Michel's bravery, which gently cradled it from birth to publication. The unveiling of such raw bereavement is desolating yet salutary. Being originally written in French gives it a piquancy and romance, which enriches the reading.
This is the most generous book I have ever read.
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