Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The last thing you'll ever read

It's not often that I stumble upon books in which the main character is dying - and that spend so little time on the actual cause of death.
"The Household Guide to Dying: A Novel About Life" by Debra Adelaide is just that.
Delia is an advice columnist, wife and mother who has stopped battling against her illness. She wants to tie up a few loose ends and live out her remaining days.
Little time is spent on her disease and the ravages of its treatement.
Instead Delia wants to pen one last guide for her fans, a guide to dying.
I loved the premise and I enjoyed the time travel from present day to past as she went about her loose-ends-tying.
Delia is more matter-of-fact than I imagine I would be in similar circumstances. She works on planning her young daughters' weddings and worries about the running of the household after she's gone.
But the reader in me completely bonded with Delia when she talked about her connection to the books she'd be leaving behind.
"Not so long ago, if I'd known I'd be dying without the chance of rereading my most beloved books, I might have wept, been desolate at the idea of taking off without a final farewell to such cherished friends. ... But now all that didn't matter. Looking at those titles piled up against each other of the shelf in the hallway, I felt almost pleased that I could say farewell."
That sense of accomplishment at having read, that feeling that those favorite works are friends, that sadness  that there are no more such discoveries. What reader wouldn't agree?
Got me thinking, as it did Delia, about what book I'd want to be reading at the actual moment of death.
Would it be the Bible? one of my favorite novels? poetry? I hope it's a good many years before I truly have to answer that question, but I think it'd be poetry. Probably some Robert Frost or depending on the circumstances perhaps Sylvia Plath.
How about you? What would you like to be reading in your final moments?
- Tricia Ambrose

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