The Gathering is a sad book and several times I had to put it down for my own sanity but it was so good I had to pick it up again. It’s a heart wrenching ordeal of a book and I felt like I was getting kicked repeatedly while reading this one.
Veronica’s brother, Liam, has committed suicide. She is the one who has to retrieve his body from London and bring it back home to Ireland for burial. On the way, she contemplates her life, her marriage, which she knows is failing, and her grief for a life she wants and the life she has. Her grief takes on incredible highs and lows and she comes to the realization that there are no right answers for her, in fact, there may not be any answers at all which makes her want to run even further from everything in her life. She doesn’t know what to do or think and takes to blaming family, loved ones, and everyone in between.
If I didn’t get this across earlier, the book is profoundly sad but realistic in the portrayal of grief and its many forms. There’s a mother paralyzed by every decision she must make. There are numerous brothers and sisters drinking their way through the burial preparations and the funeral. Veronica begins writing again in the midst of everything falling down around her but it brings her no solace or any closer to the answers she wants. Her children are a small grace in her life but she can’t be with them and enjoy those moments of peace. She spends her days overcome with hatred for her husband that she can’t appreciate any bright spot in her life.
There are some happy flashes of remembrance in this book, as there always are in times of grief. Getting family together is always a gamble and tensions are always so much higher when a death is the reason for the gathering. What I liked about this book was the authenticity of the people involved and their emotions. Not everyone grieves in the same way and Enright made this all feel very real. There were no overly joyous or crazy sad moments in this book. Even a sad book needs a few light moments to keep it going and there were no jumps in this book that struck me as odd.
I gave this book 5 stars and I don’t have much more to say about it. I’m slightly speechless because it was so good but also too much in many respects. It’s one of those books that truly has a time and a place. I wouldn’t recommend picking this one up on a whim as I did. I bought this one months ago and came across it while looking for something new to read. I wasn’t prepared in any way for a book that stunned me with the raw emotion this one did.
By Anne Enright
Black Cat New York