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A Good Death
     

A Good Death

by Gil Courtemanche, Wayne Grady (Translator)
 

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On Christmas Eve, a family has gathered around the table for the obligatory dinner. The father, once an imposing figure who terrorized his children, has suddenly fallen prey to Parkinson’s. Yesterday’s tyrant is now trapped inside a disintegrating body. André, the eldest child, is nearing 60. He has never loved the father who lied too much, abused too

Overview

On Christmas Eve, a family has gathered around the table for the obligatory dinner. The father, once an imposing figure who terrorized his children, has suddenly fallen prey to Parkinson’s. Yesterday’s tyrant is now trapped inside a disintegrating body. André, the eldest child, is nearing 60. He has never loved the father who lied too much, abused too much, manipulated too much. But still, this holiday week, André cannot help but be moved. How should he behave toward a parent to whom all pleasures are forbidden? Should he struggle to prolong the old man’s life, or help him end it? Around the dinner table, opinions are divided. At once intimate and universal, A Good Death is a deeply moving voyage into the essence of humanity. In it, Gil Courtemanche once again asks readers to confront the question that lay at the heart of his first novel: Why live? Why die?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
French-Canadian Courtemanche opens his flawed second novel (after Sunday at the Pool in Kigali) with a vivid portrait of the narrator's father at dinner with his large family on Christmas Eve struck dumb and feeble by rigid Parkinson's and stuffing himself with food. André, the narrator and eldest child, confesses he has never loved his father, a tyrant he unabashedly compares to Stalin. Flashbacks reveal a violent and domineering but insecure man who jealously once claimed the prize-winning walleye André caught in a fishing competition. As the evening progresses, André concludes that his father is better off dead, but it is impossible to tell whether the idea of patricide by gourmandism, proposed as a joke that ultimately becomes part of a plan, springs from a benevolent change of heart or from Oedipal rage. The story plays out mostly in André's head, through summary and analysis rather than drama, and the lusty, repellent father is the only character who truly comes alive on the page as the novel heads toward its shocking conclusion. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Nine surviving adult children and their families gather for the traditional Christmas Eve dinner at the home of their fragile, ailing parents. Though he's dying of Parkinson's and the aftereffects of a devastating stroke, the patriarch continues his lifelong reign of terror. His saintly, long-suffering wife, imbued with a serenity that baffles her children, is worn out from caring for his physical needs while running interference with her brood of offspring, in-laws, and grandchildren and trying to maintain the appearance of a close-knit family. With Andre, the eldest child at 59, who is engaged to the much younger, solidly centered Isabelle, Canadian author Courtemanche beautifully captures the conflicted dynamic of a dutiful child who has never loved his father, desperately needs to please his loving mother, and can only survive by maintaining emotional distance from the whole messy swamp of lifelong familial grievances and entrenched behaviors. VERDICT This follow-up to the brilliant Sunday at the Pool in Kigali (2003) beautifully compacts the big issues of aging, dying, and duty into scenes of resentful devotion, cheerful fatalism, and intimacy held at arm's length. Highly recommended.—Beth E. Anderson, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781553652151
Publisher:
Douglas & McIntyre Ltd.
Publication date:
07/28/2009
Edition description:
Original
Pages:
208
Product dimensions:
5.56(w) x 8.56(h) x 0.54(d)

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