PrintE-mail Written by Alister Davison

The Language of Dying tells the story of a woman taking care of her father, who is in the final stages of terminal cancer. With his death imminent, she gathers her siblings together to say goodbye to him for the last time. It’s a powerful and poignant tale, so intimate that it feels as much memoir as work of fiction. The narrator, like us all, is flawed, and it’s her struggle to connect with her siblings during this dark time that provides much poignancy; despite such attempts, the relationships are shown for what they are, unravelled and broken. She won’t just lose her father, but the rest of her family, too.

It’s written in such a way that – although the narrator is talking to her father – it’s as if she’s speaking to us; the present tense style gives the words a sense of immediacy, delivered in such a manner that it feels like a natural train of thought. There are short bursts of sentences for the most part, and this helps the narrator sound incredibly real; almost brusque at times, yet always full of emotion. There’s a rawness to it all, sometimes brutal, sometimes heartwarming while giving the reader much to think about.

It’s an emotional story, showing the horror in the grief that all of us must eventually face, as well as the loss of one’s self amongst the chaos that comes with it. There’s a fantastical element to it as well, which works brilliantly, driven – like the rest of the story – by the characters, as well as the compelling narrative. While not an easy read – the subject is challenging, when the plot is upsetting and uncompromising in places – it’s a rewarding one. Even the simplest of sentences can work at the heart, stirring the reader to wonder what they would do in the same situation.

At just over 140 pages, this is a short, sharp shock of a book, but its length allows it to be read in one sitting. Worthy of multiple reads (this reviewer has read it twice and it still packs that emotional punch), it’s a tale written from the soul as well as the heart, one that leaves the reader shaken at the end, yet ultimately fulfilled. Many superlatives have already been used to describe this book; let’s just say it’s an essential read, a heartbreaking and brutally honest portrayal of people going through the worst of times, one that lingers long after the final page.



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