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The Language of Dying


The Language of Dying

“There is a language to dying. It creeps like a shadow alongside the passing years and the taste of it hide in the corners of our mouths. It finds us whether we are sick or healthy. It is a secret hushed thing that lives in the whisper of the nurses' skirts as they rustle up and down our stairs.”

It is with these morose and solemn words that author Sarah Pinborough opens up her latest novel. U.S. readers most likely will be unfamiliar with her work as she has found most of her success in the U.K. as a horror/thriller writer. Unless you were able to read her reprinted horror novels through the now-defunct Leisure Horror line, her work will be mostly unrecognized.

THE LANGUAGE OF DYING, a deeply personal and heartfelt novella, is nothing like anything she has written previously. The narrator is a nameless woman who is beaten down by the impending death of her terminally ill father. She is not the oldest sibling in her family, but is the one who is stuck dealing with the specter of death in the house she shares with her father.

"THE LANGUAGE OF DYING is such a deeply personal story that you feel it had to have been written by someone who has recently dealt with difficult loss face to face."

Anyone who has been a caregiver, or has known one, will be able to relate to the emotional turmoil that this woman is going through. For those who have experienced the often-unpleasant interactions with immediate family members when faced with the death of their parent, these pages will ring true for you. 

The first sibling to visit the house is her older sister, Penny, who talks a lot about nothing, especially when she is excited or scared. She does not know how to handle her father's oncoming demise or the guilt she feels over leaving her younger sister to deal with this.  Penny is far too self-obsessed to be any sort of help, and her presence provides more disruption than solace.

Next are the younger twin boys, Davey and Simon. They are two completely self-destructive young men, and our narrator is surprised that these damaged brothers have survived as long as they have. It's a triumph that one of them doesn't fall asleep while smoking and burn the entire house down. Inevitably, neither provides any sort of relief in the face of their father dying.

It is impossible not to feel for our narrator and the pain she is going through. She describes herself as being completely empty, outside of pain, and there is no amount of pills to ease this horrible situation. THE LANGUAGE OF DYING is such a deeply personal story that you feel it had to have been written by someone who has recently dealt with difficult loss face to face. There is nothing in the afterword to confirm this notion, and it may just come down to Pinborough showing what a writer can produce when he or she strips bare all feelings and honestly relates a story through complex and utterly believable characters.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on August 5, 2016

The Language of Dying
by Sarah Pinborough

  • Publication Date: August 2, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
  • ISBN-10: 1681444364
  • ISBN-13: 9781681444369