Thursday, July 7, 2016

Falling Out of Time ~ A Stunning Chronicle of Parental Grief (Book Review)

From the first page, I knew that this is a book in a category of its own. No . . . from the title, which I saw when I stumbled across it in a bookstore last week: I immediately guessed the topic, as we who have lost our children are the ones who speak of having fallen out of time.

As a mother and a pastor, I have purchased a boatload of books on loss and grief, and especially on parental loss. Many are straightforward, not a few are little more than drivel, and two (the other being Nicholas Wolterstorff's
Lament for a Son) capture the language and experience of those who have "learned to live the inverse of life."

At first, the narative/poem/song/lament reminded me of Thornton Wilder's
Our Town, with the Town Chronicler serving in a role similar to the Narrator's. Then it began to morph into an epic journey, like that of Odysseus, or Dante, except that the pilgrims are a small, heartbroken community of mourners who seek that which is completely unattainable: a path to their beloved children.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Perhaps not for parents in the first couple of years, but for those who have made it through a few, long enough for the reality to sink in, and who wonder where we might find companionship in the silent solitude in which we now live


The above was my Amazon review, written a few months ago.  I revisited it this morning, after having been shocked into a brief depression by a blog post claiming that restlessness at night is a sinful rejection of the assurance of God's presence.  I could probably count on my fingers the nights I have slept soundly and for more than a few hours at a time since my son died ~ and I wondered, reading the blog post: Do I now have to add the sleepless hours of the past eight years to my litany of sins?

And then I remembered this book, with its small band of pilgrim parents, wandering the nights in circles, seeking their lost children, and seeking one another, those others who know those walks of the wee hours.    I think I have written before of how I used to slip out of my seminary residence late at night, or early in the morning (by which I mean 1:00 am) to walk in circles around the silent campus, peering into the darkness and knowing that I would find only more silence.

The parents - Man who becomes Walking Man, Woman who becomes Woman Who Stayed at Home, Cobbler, Midwife, Mute Woman in Net, Centaur, Elderly Math Teacher, and those who observe them, night after night, are woven into community, a community of those who live in a dark solitude, uncomprehending but insistent upon giving words to their uncomprehension:  It's like a murmur.  ...  A murmur, or a sort of dry rustle inside your head, and it never stops.  So the Centaur tries to explain to the Town Chronicler. 


As I was reading this book the first time, I wondered: How does he know? I have read syrupy, insipid books on parental loss, books in which everything is wrapped up neatly within a couple of hundred pages and a few months of plotline, or in a few paragraphs of well-intended advice.  This book, this poem, this little masterpiece, however, is filled with parents who live by day and walk by night.   And so I looked up the author's name and, of course: he lost his 20-year-old-son to Israel's war with Lebanon. And he concludes, through the final reflection of the Centaur:

Yet still it breaks my heart,
my son,
to think
that I have --
that one could --
that I have found
the words.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you. I have bookmarked this on Goodreads.