Review: Us by Michael Kimball
Author: Michael Kimball
Published: May 2011 by Tyrant Books, 184 pages
Date Read: April 2012
First Line: “Our bed was shaking and it woke me up afraid.”
Genre/Rating: Literary fiction; 4/5 houses with all the lights left on, so the ambulance knows where to find you in the dark
Review: Get ready for all the tears.
An unnamed husband wakes up to his wife having a seizure. She is whisked away to the hospital, where they tell him she might not wake up. He doesn’t give up. He brings in all the things from her bedroom, so when she wakes up, she won’t feel out of place. He records the sounds of their house – floorboards creaking, faucets being turned on and off – and plays them for her, so she’ll remember and come back to him. He sleeps in the empty bed next to her. He waits, and he waits, and he waits, and he never gives up, because he can’t imagine his life without her.
In alternate chapters, a man remembers the people in his life who have died, and tries to put their lives in perspective, and to make sense of the slow stupidity of death.
Everyone reading this has, no doubt, gone through a tragedy in their life of some sort. Looking back on it, did you marvel at some of your behaviors, as if they were being performed by someone else? Like you were operating in a fog? Wonder how you managed to get through the event, why you did things this way and not that way, how, when a human is tested, their actions are often not what you’d expect?
That’s what I thought of, when reading this book. How, when faced with the illness and death of a loved one, how we’re often on autopilot. How disaster, when it strikes in the middle of the night, causes us to react in strange ways. How the lack of sleep makes us hollow and empty shells of people. How the grief starts to slip into the cracks and change us.
Also, I thought about love. Especially the love between two people who’ve spent a lifetime together, and who know each other’s shorthand, and who can’t imagine life without one another. How far you’d go for that person, who’s become, over the years, an extension of you. How your life would change, were they to no longer be there. How you’d be willing to change your life, to get them to stay.
I really loved this book. It’s a very quick read – I finished it in one day. The last stretch was in the breakroom at work, and I was blinking away tears. We’re not to show emotion at work. WE ARE MEANT TO BE ROBOTS. So my coworkers were not overly impressed with the crying. I passed it off as allergies. Yay for reading this in springtime!
Excellent little book. Kimball’s great with emotion and realism and pain and the truth behind a lifetime of love. Highly recommended.