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Death requires precise words to describe it. When you will yourself to let your eyes see, what perfect phrase oozes from the encounter?
A mass of mostly dark brown (possibly dyed) hair, clumped as if swept up by the barber after a haircut. Yet, entwined in those chaotic clippings, something else: fragments of burlap-like webbing. Oddly, the same colouring effect could be replicated by soaking angel hair pasta in soy sauce with green dye and baking it, as it turned from blonde to brown. Around the collage of hair, an aura, like a halo … or a noose …, but not the illuminated glow of light. Instead, a putrid brown ring, wicking upward from the centre, not unlike an unscrubbed toilet bowl. It was the leaching of the dye of decay that tinted the normally grey hair: green liquid, baking to brown. There were other visual shocks to imprint the reality on me, but that scalp, still stuck fourteen inches above the floor line on the bedroom wall was my brother. Or, at least, it was what had not been digested by the flies and maggots, or had not leached from the decaying remains, retrieved two days prior by Funeral Transfer Services.
Poverty comes in many forms: intellectual, emotional and financial are but a few. When mental illness pervades a family life filled with social and economic deprivation, each member is shaped by his or her choices and interactions. This biography examines one such family. It is a story of pathos and crisis, of growth and decay. It is harsh, but it is real. It is about life and it is about death.
When the hen lays her eggs, the shells are soft and pliable, forming their durable armour as they experience the outside world. Each of us enters the world, with similarly flawed and weak shells. Our shells are not broken and cracked by life, but are formed of the fragments that we encounter, piece by piece, growing more complete with each experience.
What We Have Lost is a series of disconnected but closely related anecdotes in the lives of a family shaped by extreme poverty. These individual narratives chronicle the slow sculpting of the characters, as they fuse with their world, enveloped in mental illness. Molded by their mother’s paranoia, social isolation and obsessive drive to instill the hunger for learning and sense of duty to others, the four siblings evolve in unique and often pathological ways. Not knowing or understanding the bonds of familial love, Garry, Judy, Rob and Roger need to discover their own path to personal peace. None may make it.
What We Have Lost exposes the cruelty of poverty. It opens up the heart of that world, in surprising and convoluted ways. The pathos is clear, the hidden pleasures need unearthing. What We Have Lost is a collection of anecdotes, but, as you read, you will find that they are far from disconnected, after all.
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I cried through much of it and laughed at other places. Very well written. Very touching story