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Most Helpful Favorable Review
6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.
Sorry for your loss. Your story was beautifully written, and I
posted by momoffourRB on April 14, 2013Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Most Helpful Critical Review
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.
I read this on my Nook -- and did so because I admire Mr Dreher
posted by 9497387 on May 7, 2013Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 26, 2013
This is a complicated book, and not so much about death and bere
This is a complicated book, and not so much about death and bereavement as one would expect. There's a reason that William Young blurbed this book as a memoir. A memoir is understood to be autobiographical, and this book is mostly so. However there are several interesting passages, and even some laugh-out-loud funny parts made at the author's expense. If someone wishes to understand the continuing development of the author's patchwork political ideology this is a great book. Otherwise time is better spent elsewhere. Also there is a lot of religious discussion in the book which is only obliquely related to the death of the author's sister.
The first part of the book introduces Ruthie as the wildly popular, outgoing, tomboy sister of the author who, being the opposite was withdrawn, bookish and hung out with his spinster aunts and their cats. He was unpopular in school, and kids were mean to him. Reading between the lines, one can discern that he earned at least some of this mistreatment in the vein of "Harriet the Spy". Ruthie eventually became the homecoming queen and had a steady boyfriend pretty early on, getting married soon after school. The author couldn't wait to shake the dust of the town off his heels and move somewhere where people appreciated him more than his family and the benighted townsfolk.
The second part discusses Ruthie's sudden illness which the inept town doctor misdiagnoses as an allergy when really it was an aggressive form of lung cancer. Of course this was devastating to their young family with three children and her parents. The author is amazed at how the town rallies around them to help the family with moral and monetary support. This amazement was strange to me; this sort of community support for young victims of deadly illnesses is pretty normal to most people. He expresses the same awe at the size of her funeral, bemoaning his lack of a "deep bench" should he meet his demise in the city where he and his family didn't have as many friends. But it's pretty obvious from any close reading that his funeral wouldn't be as well attended as his sister's even in their hometown.
The strangest parts of the book center on the author's attempt to square his supposed belief in his sister's sainthood with her bad treatment of himself and his family. Some of these are in the form of discussions with his teenage niece on a vacation they took in Paris together, just the two of them, after her mother's death. Amid their conversations, she lets it slip that he should give up trying to get closer to her younger sisters since her mother had conspired with her parents for years to badmouth him around her children, sowing distrust and dislike in her family for the author's family. This revelation incenses him and he expresses his anger in strong terms to his niece who becomes upset and regrets revealing this troubling fact.
Something struck me at that point. The author asserts that his sister is a saint time and again, but it is highly possible that he is primarily trying to convince his readers--and perhaps himself--that he believes this. She was a good teacher who was loved by students, and a good wife and mother. But she was also mean and vindictive to her brother her entire life, never forgave him for slights, and was generally bigoted about anyone who was wealthy or lived in "the big city". She hardly struggled against any of these tendencies, and she spent most of her illness in denial and fear. The last words she uttered were "I'm scared!" right before she died. Her religious practice was mostly ephemeral and therapeutic, and she openly mocked her brother for having a deeper faith and devotion to God. Surely the author's own definition of "saint" can scarcely be applied to her.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.