This is a poignant and moving read that deals with the very difficult subject of grief, the grief of parents suddenly and tragically deprived of their only child. Yet this book is not heavy going, nor a hard and sorrow-filled slog – it is, in some ways, a celebration of life and a memoir of hope and remembrance: the narrator’s 21 year old son tragically contracts a virulent strain of meningitis. Within a few hours of hospitalization, he has died and his parents are left to deal with the hole he has left in their lives. This story is the personal journey of Michel and Martine through their initial shock and grief. Through painful bouts of regret – at not spending more time with him in that final week, and cherishing the moments that they did enjoy. Through the recollections of bittersweet memories at his very touching funeral. And the final step of their journey, as they fulfil their Lion’s final dream, and “let him go” in a very moving conclusion.
This book is part memoir, part fiction; heart-breaking and beautiful. The father’s grief and love shine through in every word. However, the story is enriched not by merely following Michel through his experiences, but in the fact that we follow Michel through the eyes of Lion, watching him from the other side of death. In this manner, we are shown the wretched grief – the clinging to the last vestiges of Lion’s life: his scent upon the bedclothes, the little box of ashes. It adds an additional layer of complexity and beauty.
There is also a dash of humour, a light sprinkling to the mood.
Overall, a beautifully written, deeply affective read that, at less than 200 pages, was devoured within a day of receiving it. It makes one think of mortality and loss and leaves you with the feeling that, although losing a child is terrible, it is something that you can live with, even if you never lose the hurt.
Reviewed by Angela Oliver
Published by Hachette