It is a strange, but beautifully written little book. You may have to read it twice to appreciate it. The main character, George, lays dying and has hallucinations. He dreams of his father, a man he wishes he had known better. He relives most of his life through these random memories and invites the reader in, to travel with him via these revelations. The author uses language eloquently to express his ideas and create images in your mind.
The contrast in the way the main character, George is treated throughout his illness to the way his father and even grandfather were treated when they were ill, is stark. His death is dignified and comes as he is well looked after and well loved. He is surrounded by loved ones who tend to his needs. His grandfather, on the other hand, is sent away, most likely to an insane asylum and his dad runs away when he discovers his wife is going to commit him because of his epilepsy.
The parallels that exist in the characters of the grandfather, father and son concern the tricks that the mind is capable of playing on us. The grandfather has visions, the father has epilepsy and often enters a fugue or dream like state, and the son hallucinates about both as he lays dying. They all experience a form of madness, at one time or another, but the reactions of the people they interacted with determined the outcome of their lives.
It is a touching story filled with the sadness and dread of death as well as the dignity of death when the dying are surrounded by those who love them and comfort them in their hour of need.
I had the good fortune to attend an author breakfast where Mr. Harding spoke with wit and charm. He was a professor at Harvard before this book was published. Mr. Harding is humble in the face of the Pulitzer and, looks forward to a positive future tinged with the concern that he may never achieve such heights again.