Nick's Reviews > A Death in the Family

A Death in the Family by James Agee
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Sep 10, 07

Recommended for: those who appreciate the hidden mystery of the emotional moment
Read in September, 2007

This isn't a difficult book but it's certainly not traditional. There is practically no profluence beyond the natural causality of a single incident--the death of a good man. In other words, there are no surprises, nothing is coming that you don't already know, no real "narrative" reason to turn the page.

Rather, the book is held together by a string of incredibly detailed descriptions of highly emotional moments in one family's life. The vivid inner lives of the characters that Agee creates are instantly recognizable--I think that Agee is close to Tolstoy in his ability to verbalize those intimate feelings that pass through us, discharge their precious emotional cargo and then carry on, leaving us to dig into the recesses of our mind to try and recall, through the help of that tired bloodhound named Memory, what actually happened to us.

Mind you, the book is quite sad and offers none of the satisfaction of a good yarn with its tidy realization and conclusion. Instead, like the telescope at some tourist vista point, allowing us incredibly close access to some impossibly far site, our vision abruptly ends as our coin clanks into the bowels of the machine, and we return to our usual vantage, marveling at how beautiful and yet how brief our time away was.
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Comments (showing 1-3)




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Bloom I think your review is spot-on. The scene when the young boy (cannot remember his name, it's been a while) is watching the boys to school and feeling some how special because his father has died is stunning in its simplicity, accuracy, and heartbreak.


Leighanne fabulous review. You wrote what I was thinking, only more eloquently.


message 1: by Anne (new)

Anne Schumann How lovely; thank you for your review, Nick.


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