Amy's Reviews > The Monk Upstairs: A Novel

The Monk Upstairs by Tim Farrington
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's review
Jan 03, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: bookcrossing, borrowed, thank-you-charleston-county-library

As I mentioned, I'd read The Monk Downstairs a few years back. I remember liking it (though I checked it out from the library and have no review written on BookCrossing, so can't recall specifics.) But the general feeling was positive enough that when I saw this book on the "New Books" shelf, I picked it up. It is a book that combines many elements that again interest me: spirituality, love, mother-daughter relations for starters. As part of the plot, the adult daughter is confronted with her own mother's growing frailty after a stroke and the mother's journey/transition preparation from this world into whatever lies beyond. It is a gentle handling of a path I find myself starting down. As my own mother's days become more ephemeral, I wonder how the actual transition will be, what key life will modulate to and if I'll still be able to find the melody and recall the tune. She spends a lot of time resting now-- her days are more cat-like, curled up in naps in the daylight hours and prowling at night. There was a passage in this book which really struck home with me:

Rebecca has no idea how long it had taken her to notice. It might have been a minute or two, certainly not more than five minutes: a little spell of absorption in the painting, a meditation on how the sea met the sky, a play of green and gray and blue. It was long enough, she knew, that she would always feel the pain of not having noticed sooner. In any case, she had become aware at some point that it had been a while since Phoebe had spoken or moved, and she glanced over at her.

And had seen instantly that everything had changed. The slump was subtle, as was the slight sagging on the right side of her mother's face, but the overall effect was as obvious as a tire going flat. It made Rebecca realize how much her basic sense of her mother's appearance had altered, how quickly you grew accustomed to the most radical changes in someone, What seemed unbearable debilitation at first became the new norm in time , and you came to count on it in its turn and even, weirdly, to treasure it; and every further undoing was a new and painful loss. In the blink of an eye the speech-slurred, awkward, infinitely slow Phoebe of a moment before seemed like the shining image of a vanished heartiness. she had been dim and wan, and now was gray enough to make dim and wan seem bright; and her dreamy, drifting gaze, so unnerving for so long, had gone unnervingly vacant.

Not that we're anywhere near there yet, but I do understand that when the time comes, I'll probably be the one to find her...It does give one pause to realize that.

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