Monday, December 19, 2011

Us, 70/100

I feel a little bit like a dick for giving Us by Michael Kimball only two stars on goodreads.

Here's why: Kimball wrote the story about his dying grandparents. Most of it is from the perspective of the grandfather, who takes care of his wife after she has a seizure and goes into a coma. Very little is from the perspective of the grandmother. There's also a portion from the point-of-view of Kimball as a boy going to his first funeral.

At first it is heartbreaking. But by the end I felt like the biggest Ebenezer Scrooge (McDuck) in the world, at one point doing the jerk-off motion with my hand while reading it. So heartless! I know. But the entire thing seemed like an exercise in emotional masturbation.

It also felt like something meant for people who maybe haven't gone through the type of emotional trauma experienced by this family (although it's something we all eventually go through). I'm not one of these people. The problem with having a large family is that you become very familiar with sickness, death, and funerals. I've been visiting hospitals and attending funerals all my life. It hasn't gotten any easier. There's nothing more profoundly disturbing to me than going to an open-casket viewing or putting flowers on a grave. I did the latter just this weekend.

I understand why Kimball wrote this book. It was a way to process what he experienced, and what his grandfather must have gone through watching his wife die. All the same, I can't give it a good review based entirely on the subject matter and the fact that it made me weep like an Oprah audience member. You can't write a book that consists entirely of the last third of Nicholas Sparks novel.

The idea would work wonderfully as a writing exercise, or a creative writing class work-in-progress. A personal reflection or meditation. The most disturbing meditation ever I presume.

However it blows my mind that anyone could have actually enjoyed reading this. Or got anything out of it. Or, for the love of god, would recommend it to another person. This book would make the worst Christmas present ever.

"Merry Christmas! When considering what to get you I thought, 'I bet this person would just LOVE reading about old people slowly and painfully dying!' Can you pass the eggnog?"

Bah humbug.

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