Falling Out of Time, David Grossman, Alfred A Knopf, 2014, 208 pp (translated from the Hebrew by Jessica Cohen
Death is always a part of life no matter one's age, but at my age one begins to lose more and more people to death. I lost my dad ten years ago this month and my mom five years ago in April. Just two days after I fell ill in May, my favorite uncle passed away at 93 years of age. Simultaneously my favorite aunt fell and broke her shoulder. She had just turned 96 and was deemed too elderly to withstand an operation. She died in hospice care a week later.
I am not writing of all this death as a plea for pity or condolences. I had read Falling Out of Time two weeks before and felt my own grief about my parents understood by someone more fully than before, because this book is a work of mourning and an examination of the mourning process more precise, more reverberating, and yet more gentle than anything I have read or heard.
However, I do not recommend it lightly. David Grossman and his wife Michal, live outside Jerusalem where they have raised three children. Their youngest, Uri, a tank commander, was killed in 2006 in Lebanon. After writing To The End of the Land, a novel loosely based on the experience, he had more to say.
Most reviewers and even the publisher have scrambled to describe Falling Out of Time, calling it part play, part prose, part poetry. For us Americans, it rather defies labeling. The work is a hybrid and involves the reader best who takes her time and just lets the words and images sink in.
By involving several characters who are mourning those they have lost, Grossman hits on the truth that each person has his or her own unique reaction to death. No one ritual or series of steps is right for every person.
An even deeper concept is, whether you have a religious belief about where the dead go or if you believe that death is the end of a person, the saddest most unacceptable part is the annihilation of one's connection with the dead one in real time, because he or she has fallen out of time.
Then comes a final conclusion. It may not work for everyone but it clearly worked for the author. Because of that, I was left feeling unburdened of my own past and future losses somewhat. But reading David Grossman's deeply personal meditation on his loss also left me stirred up, my thoughts in a whirl, my heart aching.
The next to the last sentences: "He is dead, he is dead. But his death, his death is not dead."
Read at your own risk.
(Falling Out of Time is available in hardcover and eBook by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)