#5 The Last Life by Claire Messud

18 01 2008


I picked up this book off of the “Buy One Get One Half Off Table” at Borders prior to leaving for Florida. Previously having enjoyed The Emperor’s Children, I decided to give Claire Messud another try.

Although The Last Life was enjoyable reading, it didn’t gather my rapt attention like The Emperor’s Children. There were no characters as memorable as the venerable Bootie Tubb, whom I will surely recall for the rest of my life, for his unbendable need to do what was right.

Messud’s prose gives the mind a workout. Two quotes especially resonated with me:

Neither my grandmother nor my father said anything for a moment, and then my father said, as if it were a joke, “But that’s what all of life is, isn’t it? Being tripped up by unpleasant truths? Just got to get back on the horse.”

I don’t know why this echoed so much with me. I reread this passage several times. There haven’t been any unpleasant truths in my life as of late, but this serves as a reminder that when the going gets tough, the tough get going (a classic cliche, if ever there was one).

“We don’t choose what we believe, or don’t believe. That’s my point. And if we do, we’re fooling ourselves.”

I wish I could have said something this simple to a friend during a recent conversation in which I felt that she was trying to convince me that my (non)beliefs were wrong.

But, I digress. Back to The Last Life – I was able to relate to the main character, Sagesse, until an incestuous event occurs between her and her brother – after this I felt isolated from the character and lost interest in the storyline. Her brother is severely mentally and physically handicapped. The way that scene is written makes the event seem quite natural. Perhaps it is the author’s intent to make us question the why our society has certain mores, or to make us realize that all human beings have a sexual side.

I really like Messud’s writing style. Since she delivered the previously mentioned Bootie Tubb in The Emperor’s Children, I will definitely give her another try.

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