It took me a long time to get through this book. Not, though, because I didn’t love it. I did love it. Very much, in fact. Mostly it was because when I got to the final sections–Illness and Decline & Death–I found I could not go on. I did not want Daisy Goodwill to get sick; I did not want her to die. I had lived her whole life with her–and her voice right in my ear narrating the story (oh, what Carol Shields does with POV in this novel is truly genuis and not to be tried by those less skillful).
But then when I did set to reading these sections, I got to one of the most powerful moments–a moment that both chilled and comforted me. And it came, surprisingly from Daisy’s daughter Alice (or, perhaps Daisy was being charitable and giving Alice this moment because Alice had taken such good care of her during her illness):
Something has occurred to her–something transparently simple, something she’s always known, it seems, but never articulated. Which is that the moment of death occurs while we’re still alive. Life marches right up to the wall of that final darkness, one extreme state of being bunting against the other. Not even a breath separates them. Not even a blink of the eye. A person can go on and on tuned in to the daily music of food and work and weather and speech right up to the last minute, so that not a single thing gets lost.
For me, this humbling book is all about those moments always known but not articulated–all about how our lives go by, pass through and from us. All about “one extreme state of being bunting against the other.” It is all about how we slip away but stay in place, turning into stone as Daisy does at her demise.
It’s hard for me to discuss this book without being effusive (which is what it deserves), so all I will say is that if you have not read it, please do consider it.