Book Review: Falling Out of Time by David Grossman

03.24.2014

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

falling out of time

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Category: Prose Poetry

Author: David Grossman

Format: Hardcover, 208 pages

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

ISBN: 9-780-7710-3640-8

Pub Date: March 25, 2014

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Summary from Publisher:

David Grossman, a writer whose exceptional humanity, grace, and sheer brilliance as a storyteller have earned him acclaim around the world, has created an inspiring, compassionate, and genre-defying drama — part play, part prose, and a fable of pure poetry — to tell the story of bereaved parents setting out to reach their beloved lost children. It begins in a kitchen, in a small village, where a man is speaking with his wife about their loss. He announces that he is leaving, and he embarks on a walk in search of his dead son. Slowly, more and more people are drawn to him, joining him on his ever-widening circular journey around the town. Little by little, the reader realizes that the people of this anonymous town are also mourners, each having to endure their own bereavement.

Inspired by the tragic loss of David  Grossman’s own son, in combat, Falling Out of Time asks, Can one overcome death by sheer speech or memory? Is it possible, even for a fleeting moment, to free the dead from their death, to call to them and make them present once more? Grossman’s answer to such questions is a hymn to people from all walks of life — from a Net-Mender to a Duke — who ultimately find solace in their community of shared grief and in a kind of acceptance they could not have reached without coming together.

– From Chapters-Indigo website

Book Review by Zara

from The Bibliotaphe Closet:

Falling Out of Time by David Grossman is a 193-page long prose poem that laments and explores the devastation of grief for parents of children who have died.

The characters are unnamed except for their roles in the book: The Walking Man, The Woman Who Left Home, The Town Chronicler, The Town Chronicler’s Wife, The Midwife, The Cobbler, The Net-Mender, The Centaur, The Elderly Math Teacher, the Duke.

Perhaps their ambiguity is purposed to broaden their mourning from a personal experience to one that is communal since many children died in the village in which this novel takes place. Perhaps their namelessness is in answer to the identity they have lost since the travesty of the death of their children.

A reader must come to this novel with an active patience, a keen and quiet attention, perhaps even the willingness to read the novel twice. Though the novel is not long, nor difficult, its language is poetic and written in such a way that the reader must actively piece together the story’s plot and to whom each speaker addresses.

While the story wallows in the depth and length of its language and the transition from one speaker to another is not always smooth enough to be made clear, the book is filled with a number of lyrical lines of verse that speak the eloquence of a poem.

The novel reminds me of Walt Whitman’s exhaustive yet famous poem, Song of Myself, its tone fully absorbed in its subject—but in this book its subject is not the self, but rather the grief of death.

And like grief, the pacing of the novel is long, the language, context, and emotional feel of the novel, all-consuming. Its message is wailed throughout the novel. Its emotional devastation depicted in the characters’ self-destructive thinking, their solemnness, their communal action.

The book is almost a soliloquy, written as such, except spoken by each character mostly to him or herself. And at times the reading can be exhausting as it is depressing, but so is grief, which is most likely what David Grossman intended.

There is a strangeness, too, a fantastical aspect to the novel, languid in its dreamlike state, its characters’ hypnotic misery. And the act of circling, an endless circling, as if on a journey that does not end, but continues in an eternity, is how the book and its characters unravel themselves—and a little of their grief.

It is their children that are eventually named, identified, spoken, and declared. How the dead become living and breathing entities in the novel, so as to emphasize the hold of grief and mourning.

While this novel is not for those who has little patience for poetry, it does deserve a careful and attentive read. It is linguistically and emotionally driven, more of a grave essence than a fully-bodied plot since grief takes hold of the mind more than it does anything else, this novel, too, is a testimony to grief, to loss, to the ramifications of unwilled survival.

It captures the gravity and emotional drama—even its exaggeration—and injustice of death as it does the willingness of those bereaved to perpetuate their own suffering. While not necessarily a beautiful book since death can be none of those things, it is a painful and harsh rendering of what loved ones can be compelled to do in search for understanding of their loss.

And even though the novel is merely 208 pages, its subject weighs it down with a burden large enough to give it difficulty, quality, and substance.

Falling Out of Time is an ode to death as much as it is a necessary comment on life and the afterlife.

***

Characters: 3 stars

Pacing: 2 stars

Cover Design: 3 stars

Plot: 2 stars

Poetic Language: 3 stars

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Zara’s Rating

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A special thanks to Random House of Canada on behalf of McClelland & Stewart for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Author:

David Grossman

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Leading Israeli novelist David Grossman (b. 1954, Jerusalem) studied philosophy and drama at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and later worked as an editor and broadcaster at Israel Radio. Grossman has written seven novels, a play, a number of short stories and novellas, and a number of books for children and youth. He has also published several books of non-fiction, including interviews with Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. Among Grossman`s many literary awards: the Valumbrosa Prize (Italy), the Eliette von Karajan Prize (Austria), the Nelly Sachs Prize (1991), the Premio Grinzane and the Premio Mondelo for The Zig-Zag Kid (Italy, 1996), the Vittorio de Sica Prize (Italy), the Juliet Club Prize, the Marsh Award for Children`s Literature in Translation (UK, 1998), the Buxtehude Bulle (Germany, 2001), the Sapir Prize for Someone to Run With (2001), the Bialik Prize (2004), the Koret Jewish Book Award (USA, 2006), the Premio per la Pace e l`Azione Umanitaria 2006 (City of Rome/Italy), Onorificenza della Stella Solidarita Italiana 2007, Premio Ischia – International Award for Journalism 2007, the Geschwister Scholl Prize (Germany), the Emet Prize (Israel, 2007)and the Albatross Prize (Germany, 2009). He has also been awarded the Chevalier de l`Ordre des Arts et Belles Lettres (France, 1998) and an Honorary Doctorate by Florence University (2008). In 2007, his novels The Book of Internal Grammar and See Under: Love were named among the ten most important books since the creation of the State of Israel. His books have been translated into over 25 languages.

– From Goodreads

Links:

Find David Grossman on Wikipedia.

Be David’s fan on Goodreads.

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Have you ever suffered the grief of losing someone you love to death?

How did you best cope with your personal grief?

Do you prefer prose or poetry? Why?

What is your favourite collection of poetry? Your favourite poem?

Have you read Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself?” What did you think?

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zara cat stamp

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