Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Kalila by Rosemary Nixon

Published by Goose Lane Publishers
Reviewed for Edward Magazine Book Club

First, it is important to remember this is a novel. I say this because this book is the closest I have ever seen to the trauma of fact. Disjointed thoughts known only to those who have suffered trauma or extreme grief, the grief related to the loss or desperate illness of a child. Maggie has given premature birth to a baby girl with problems no one has yet identified. The baby is in a care unit at a research hospital.The doctors are not connecting with the parents, their only interest is the child. It's not a thing, it's not "the baby", she has a name, Kalila. She is a little person, not a specimen! Maggie is outside looking in. She has fallen through the crack into another world where isolation is the norm and she doesn't know the rules. Life goes on all around her at its regular pace but she is only aware of it for short intervals. It is always a shock to discover in the crisis you are living, that other people are living their normal lives. Don't they know that your life is in tatters? Can't they see you are living, too, at a terribly slowed pace of pain and isolation?

At this point, her husband is as supportive as anyone can be. He deals with his grief in an entirely different way, and so it is with the two sexes, they do respond differently. A male grieving takes it as a literal blow to his own humanity. Also, in most cases, he continues to work. It's actually rather interesting to view him in his working life all tangled up with what is happening with his child and wife. But a chance discussion with another mother, who finally took her child home to care for rather than leaving her in the isolation of the neonatal ward, compels Maggie to make the decision to bring Kalila home. Once there, they have a small feeling of normalcy between episodes of panic, the problem is the doctors have never been able in the four plus months to discover what her multitude of problems are, and what is causing them. All Maggie and Brodie feel is the comfort of finally being able to hold their baby.

This is not a weighty book in size, but certainly in subject matter, and very well written. I did feel loss toward the end of the book, I felt something missing in the relationship, but I have never lived that role before so can not truthfully comment on it. It did seem to fall off a bit toward the end. Ironically, the very surgery that gives them some glimmer of hope to hang on to is the very thing that causes the unthinkable. Hope, then sudden loss. I grieved, too. But there is often a marriage break-up in these cases, and indeed they were warned this could happen. The reader is not really aware that this had happened at first, and perhaps that is why I felt lost in the last part. There was nothing, and then it was years later. So that is my one and only regret in the telling of this novel. Extremely well-written for the most part, and I would certainly recommend it for anyone going through the grief of an ill child or the loss of a baby. Be prepared to be living the story with the participants. A difficult story to write and to live. Rosemary Nixen has written from the heart and soul. She has stepped inside the characters of her book and done it exactly right.

No comments: