The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough
She’s been by his side for months, watching as cancer eats away at her father. Listening as his coughs turned from short bursts into constant streams of sound but then the night comes when she realises things have changed. He’s stopped drinking water, hasn’t eaten in days and she calls her sister and brother to let them know the time is near. Although happy to see her siblings they bring with them their own stresses and strains and she misses the times when it was just her and her father in the house. Their selfishness at not being there before puts a barrier between them she can’t help but feel, why was it always her who had to face up to reality?
As time passes she realises that death doesn’t come as easily as she thought, that the process of dying holds its own words and descriptions, painful yet necessary. Words she hopes to forget in the future but knows she never will.
The Language of Dying follows the unnamed narrator as she cares for her father in his last few days. During this time she reflects on her life and the lives of her hectic family. From her mother leaving, her father’s alcoholism, her twin brother’s addictions, her own deep personal loss and the creature she’s seen on her darkest days.
I have been wanting to read this book since the end of last year but have had to work up to it as I felt the contents we so incredibly close to home. I lost my own father to pancreatic cancer at the beginning of last year and wasn’t sure I was going to do myself any favours reading this novel but the positive reviews had me intrigued. I am hugely glad I did read it in the end, for two very different reasons. Not only is the novel devastatingly beautiful but strangely reassuring. There is a language to dying and it’s not one you learn until it touches your life. Or in my family’s case, we never heard it at all. Terminal agitations is one that gave me comfort to understand thanks to these pages and the knowledge that it’s normal, a fact we were never given. The other simply being how great this short novel is. No, it’s not easy or fun but more than that, it’s beautifully written, moving and important. If it doesn’t touch you deeply then you should be grateful that you haven’t been exposed to its world yet and if you have, it may just help. Either way, Sarah Pinborough has created something truly special.
Buy The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough