He continues that theme in his book, Never Let Me Go (Random House, 2004).
Reviewers describe this book with terms like, "devastating," "quiet desperation," "deceptively simple," "existential crisis," and "emotionally shattering."
The book doesn't hide anything from you. It opens with the main character, Kathy H., telling the story of her life. She states the facts in the first sentence: she is 31, grew up in a school called Hailsham raised by a slew of guardians, and has been a carer---one of the best---of donors for more than eleven years. Upfront Ishiguro has revealed that this is a book of horror, for all that it is about a compelling story of a love and friendship triangle between Kathy and her two friends Ruth and Tommy. But you are so drawn in to the people and their relationships that it takes time to process that these people were created to serve as organ donors for the rest of the population.
In my post a few days ago, I begged for someone to email me who had read this book because it was burning a hole in my mind and soul. Thankfully, Mary-LUE was willing and able. We both found that this story grew and grew, more and more, the horror dawned on us increasingly after we had read the last page and closed the book. It takes a few days for it to all sink in. For me, it was the next day as I was driving on the highway. I glanced to the person in the car next to me, and suddenly I was overwhelmed by humanity, and I choked up thinking about it, and about the book.
It is devastating. But also gorgeous, moving, enthralling, and enlightening.
It's horror, a parable, science fiction, a mystery, as well as a tale of characters growing and evolving---probably, believe it or not, the most compelling part of the book. It's a story that is thick and rich, so dense you might normally read a couple of chapters and set it down to process, but you can't because the story---the mystery and suspense---makes it a "read it all in one sitting page turner."
I haven't provided any spoilers.
You know where this book and its characters are headed from the opening line of the first page.
But you can't accept it. You can't let them go.
Or, at least I can't.
But then again, I'm not terribly good at letting go of people or situations, especially if there is a sense of incompleteness (which is a little ironic, considering in the book characters "complete" rather than "die," which exposes how they are thought of: as a purpose more than a person---another Ishiguro theme).
I am the sort who is first to the party of emotional investing and last to leave. I think, believe it or not, that it's because I think so much, and need to process through, versus a big emotional rush and dump and run. You might say I don't transition well.
I recognized this, actually, after becoming a parent, after I had read Mary Sheedy Kurcinka's book about spirited children. I might have realized it sooner, but I had no vocabulary for it and wasn't conscious of it.
If I apply Kurcinka's practical advice to situations for my children, endings are fairly painless. If I apply them to myself, they can be less painful.
"Needing time to transition" is much nicer than saying "not very adapatable."
But at heart, that's a little of what it is.
Like my children, I don't attach to objects. I don't have a cluttered house, and I don't like clutter. I can purge with no trouble. The only time I hit a stumbling block on this is if the object is emotionally attached to a person or situation I haven't been able to let go of yet. I imagine this is the issue for all cluttering, but it's rare that I so affix emotion to an object. I'm more likely to attach to---invest in---people, and our dynamic through which we relate.
It takes me a while to realize that I have been spaced out, or moved beyond. Sometimes it even takes me a while to realize that I have moved beyond. Nevertheless, change, transition and endings are an inevitable process, and one I need to accept. Moreover, I need to achieve constructive letting go in order to have peace and well-being in my life.
Sylvia Clare wrote
"Letting go is simply making a decision to no longer allow something from the past to influence your life now or to reduce your inner sense of peace and well-being. So all we need to do is to let go of the beliefs and attitudes that prevent us from experiencing the joy of the moment. The problem comes in identifying exactly what that means; we have so many beliefs that prevent us from being in the here and now, from being content and peaceful within."
I'm not sure why I am so expectant of loss, or why letting go means loss to me. I expect I'll figure it out since I'm asking. I imagine, to some degree, it is because of the type of person I am, and the type of life I've lead, which seems to ask for a lot of letting go. If I were to turn this blog into a reminiscence---and sometimes I have, such as with the infertility stories that are such a lesson in letting go---I could explore the many times I've hit an ending or change before I was ready, and how hard it was to let go, and move on. I do often turn this blog into a soapbox, which is very much about injustice, a very hard thing to let go of.
When it comes to this type of letting go, Clare says
We should have no values, no judgements, no morals, no criticisms, no ideas of what is or should or shouldn't be. None at all. Because if we have an idea of what is or what should or shouldn't be we are making a judgement on something that is as it is, as God or as the Universe intended. It is as it is, and it is perfect as it is for the people who are involved in that scenario.
I don't quite agree. I believe that perhaps things might be as they should be, for one reason or another, but I also believe that we ought to evaluate. Sometimes things need to change. Clare concedes this, but somehow implies that one can be moved to act without judgment, or ought to, anyway.
Unlike Clare, I think it's okay to invest emotion, energy, and values into a situation (and person).
Like Clare, I think that when it is time, we need to recognize when to let go and accept change.
That's hard for people like me---the planners and organizers, with plans and backups, all situations thought carefully through and prepared for the to best of our ability. It's not a matter of feeling that something happens "to" us, but is instead an over-recognition of things happening "from" us.
Finding the balance and letting go is tough, but necessary.
So I work on my mindfulness, my processing, and incorporate Sheedy Kurcinka's plan of "get enough sleep-pay attention-give fair warning-then walk through letting go and moving on to the next thing" to assist with successful transition.
For the children, for example, if we're leaving the park, we say goodbye piece by piece, and thank the playground for all the fun we had.
For me, for example, I say goodbye, piece by piece, and then thank the person or situation (at least mentally) for all it/they have brought to me.
So how about you?
What do you think of Clare's idea about letting go?
What's your idea of letting go? Your process.
To see what others said, check out
What Emily Got for Her Fourth Birthday
Snoskred's Letting Go
Kaliroz's Letting Go
Andrea's Doors, Open and Shut
Fluttercraft's How to Let It Go
Catherine's babbling, rushing stream
Chani's Liturgy of the Hours
I'm open to suggestions for next week's topic, and remember, if you want the button, just ask. :)
P.S. The book? It's not so much fiction. Is it? Don't we currently enable an organ donor black market, where desperately poor people become donors so their families can eat?
copyright 2007 Julie Pippert