Pooker's Reviews > Suddenly

Suddenly by Bonnie Burnard
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really liked it
bookshelves: canada, fiction
Recommended to Pooker by: Angie Abdou
Recommended for: Fans of Burnard's A Good House, personal friends

I enjoyed this book, although enjoyed seems not the right word for a story built around a character's illness and inevitable death.

Sandra, Colleen and Jude have been friends for most of their adult lives. They have seen each other through joys and heartaches, marriages and betrayals. They've laughed and "snarled". Years ago Jude had cancer and survived. Sandra, at the opening of the book, has discovered a lump in her breast a "little black-hearted misery" as she puts it, the first of the "hard little bastard bullets".

Sandra will die in the course of this book. From the initial discovery in the first chapter, with its wary optimism for survival, we jump ahead four years and know that there will be no miracle cure. We must live through this, the remainder of Sandra's life, and we do. We live through the thoughts and feelings and actions of these three woman with their husbands and children, both as they live through these final days and as they lived before.

I was comforted by the solicitousness of the three friends for each other. Coincidentally I happened to read on a blog (or some such thing) a list of things to do to help a person with cancer. We have all been or will be at some point - wanting to be helpful but not knowing what to do or say. These friends know and care enough to do these things, even though they may themselves be grieving and exhausted. I was a little bit taken aback though by their attitude toward neighbours' and others' obviously well-meaning efforts to be helpful. The provision of food and encouraging words did not seem as appreciated as I might have thought.

I was both comforted and discomforted with thoughts of my own death, hopefully distant but inevitable nonetheless. Who would I want to have with me in my final days, who would want to be there, who would know how to help and understand what I need?

I was both comforted and discomforted by the thought that, though I will die, life will go on. I will live on in the memories of people close to me, but inevitably those memories will fade and disappear with coming generations. As is and will be the case for all of us.

I don't know if I would have appreciated this book's grace and wisdom and authenticity if I were reading it at 20, but with 50+ years of living experience I certainly did.
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Reading Progress

September 6, 2011 – Started Reading
September 6, 2011 – Shelved
September 9, 2011 – Finished Reading
September 13, 2011 – Shelved as: canada
September 13, 2011 – Shelved as: fiction

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