I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough
Published by Jo Fletcher Books on August 2nd 2016
Genres: Magical Realism, Horror
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: Mayhem, Murder, Behind Her Eyes
In this emotionally gripping, genre-defying novella from Sarah Pinborough, a woman sits at her father's bedside, watching the clock tick away the last hours of his life. Her brothers and sisters--she is the middle child of five--have all turned up over the past week to pay their last respects. Each is traumatized in his or her own way, and the bonds that unite them to each other are fragile--as fragile perhaps as the old man's health.
With her siblings all gone, back to their self-obsessed lives, she is now alone with the faltering wreck of her father's cancer-ridden body. It is always at times like this when it--the dark and nameless, the impossible, presence that lingers along the fringes of the dark fields beyond the house--comes calling.
As the clock ticks away in the darkness, she can only wait for it to find her, a reunion she both dreads and aches for...
‘There is a language to dying. It creeps like a shadow alongside the passing years and the taste of it hides in the corners of our mouths. It finds us whether we are sick or healthy. It is a secret hushed thing that lives in the whisper of the nurses’ skirts as they rustle up and down our stairs. They’ve taught me to face the language one syllable at a time, slowing creating an unwilling meaning.’
The Language of Dying is a multi-genre novella which tells the story of a dying father and his five children that come together to be with him in his final moments. Blending a contemporary tale of family life with aspects of magical realism and horror, Sarah Pinborough focuses on an unnamed narrator, the middle child of five who has been the one to remain home and care for her father once he realized that cancer was ravaging his body. It’s not until she receives word that her father has mere days to live do her siblings finally return to pay their respects, leaving it up to her to handle things until they can no longer say no. Her siblings have always found her to be something of an odd duck, always has her head in the clouds, but not only is she constantly haunted by a creature she once saw out her bedroom window but of the darkened past that she keeps hidden while is continues to consume her.
‘A black horn grows twisted from between its eye, a thick, deformed, calloused thing, a tree root erupting from the earthy ground of its forehead, the matt texture oppositional to the sweaty shine on its dark hide. I stare at it and our souls meet. It is power and anger and beauty and nature rolled into something other-worldly, waging a war with the night on its four thick hooves.’
The magical realism/horror aspects of this novel were initially curious yet ultimately left me perplexed. The novella mainly centers around the narrators relationship with her father and her siblings as well as her own tragically distressing story that has changed her as a person. Bouncing between past and present tense, the story is a nostalgic one, recalling past times with both fondness and animosity. The inclusion of the fantasy aspect, oddly, never seemed out of place in this contemporary story yet felt mostly like a metaphor that I never fully understood. The Language of Dying is an outlandish yet beautifully written story that effectively illustrates the power of grief and the indelible mark it leaves on us.
‘Sometimes there are just too many words filling up space and not enough emptiness left for thinking. I keep a little emptiness inside for when I need it.’