I am a big fan of Edith Wharton's work. This 1926 collection of short "ghost" stories, however, fails the reader of 2013.
As is characteristic of Wharton's writing, the narration is understated, never veering into OMG territory. She gives the reader credit for having a brain.
Unfortunately, she treads a well-worn path in each of these tales. The stories move slowly and the outcomes are predictable. I had to force myself to hear them all through to the end, hoping that somewhere in the pack I'd uncover an "Ethan Frome" experience.
I would recommend any of this Pulitzer prize-winning author's other books or short stories, but suggest you leave this collection of ghost stories on the shelf.
I finished listening to this book about 10 days ago and find that I remember very little about it, other than a few idiosyncratic features of Dr. Alexander's story.
For one, it seems that his illness was exceedingly rare, and when it does strike, takes no prisoners. What are we to infer from his narrative? We are nudged toward the conclusion that Dr. Alexander's recovery, intellect intact, must be a miracle; although he stops short of casting it as such.
As for his son, who bears the majestic title of Eben IV, I guess he's OK with the moniker. But really? To refer to him always as Eben-the-Fourth must get a little cumbersome, to say the least.
His account of the NDE itself is ordinary fare. You've read or heard it all before.
Dr. Alexander reads well, and conveys his story with sincerity.
Really enjoyed this book. As I go about simplifying my life, I find myself repeating key phrases such as "like with like" and "the thing is not the person". I even lecture myself on returning things to their designated homes when I get careless.
In a fulsome act of disorganization, I soon discovered that I had already read this book about a year ago, but continued with the audible version anyway, and quickly found that I had overlooked much valuable material during my first go-round. As I am already a fairly well-organized person, I had scanned or skipped whole pages during my first reading, figuring that certain sections did not apply to me. Arrogant fool. During the audible version, I discovered that every chapter contains valuable information.
I lost my husband to cancer 3 years ago and letting go of his belongings has been a difficult process. When I was ready, I donated most of his clothing; then I threw out university papers and essays, etc., the accoutrements of a life that were once significant but not particularly personally valuable. For the smaller yet somehow bigger things, author Mellen's advice helps me as I continue to struggle with memories such as theatre ticket stubs, stacks of photographs, his bedroom slippers, his e-mail address. I'm filing and organizing the treasures, discarding the duplicates or the unlovely photos in which my butt does indeed look big, and handing off special items to his family, who I know will value them. In a truly heartbreaking moment, I was forced to throw out the cards, love notes, and other special paper mementoes that I had temporarily stored in a plastic box. In the basement. Too late came Mellen's warning never to store paper-based valuables in the basement. These precious treasures were coated in black mould when I opened the box, and they could not be salvaged. I can only console myself with Mellen's observation that the thing is not the person.
Mellen's delivery is perfectly suited to the material, and he manages to inject humour into the narrative with a pause here and a little emphasis there. Well done.
I will keep the slippers.
A book that deals with the topic of personal death has an eager audience. Many people yearn for a glimpse behind the veil, a glimpse that would seem to exist in a narrative such as Moorjani's, a narrative that captures the experience of near death.
Moorjani sets the stage for her NDE in meticulous detail, describing her religious, cultural, and family background as a transplanted resident of Hong Kong. Eventually, we arrive at the core of her story, her near death and her experience on the other side.
Anyone who has stood at the deathbed of a loved one welcomes with great joy her description of the release from pain, the happiness at being welcomed by departed loved ones, the feeling of basking in an overwhelming love that knows no bounds, makes no demands. At some point during her description of this experience, she begins to get bogged down in the repetitiveness that plagues her writing, and we grow just a little tired of the constant references to "unconditional love and acceptance" and the "irrelevance of time". Still, her story is sufficiently compelling to carry us along, and her description of her re-entry into the world of the living is an illuminating comment on the limitations of our human grasp of life.
Things really start to break down when she begins to lecture the listener/reader on the insights that she has gained from her experience. Her constant references to the oneness of the cosmos and the universe, our magnificence, our importance as little colourful threads in an enormous tapestry are worthwhile concepts but they rapidly become tiresome repeats of a sermon we've heard and heard and heard. By the time Moorjani finally gets around to winding up her book, her comments have become annoying.
Her story is worthwhile; her recording of it could have used some serious editing.
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