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Never Let Me Go: Hump Day Hmmm

Kazuo Ishiguro, I've noticed, always incorporates elements of letting go, self-sacrifice, and sense of self in his books. He usually explores the line of where one person ends and another begins by creating dysfunction and imbalance in both the situation and in the characters, who usually are in a position of serving others to the point of near or total self-loss---although, that might be a misunderstanding, perhaps instead it is our issue of trying to understand how a person can be whole when his or her identity is formed through serving another/others.

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. :)

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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


Catherine said…
Mine's up too! I think I'm supposed to email you, but I'm rushing and can't find your address. :) Three weeks in a row! Although, my use of the topic isn't really what you had in mind, I don't think...
Julie Pippert said…
I promise I went to your site before posting this! I must have just hit before you posted, LOL. Then again, my time to do this was 6:15 to 7 a.m. I will add you in, and the parameters are WIDE open. I love different takes on it, not just different POVs about an issue, but different takes on what this is about.
"I am the sort who is the first to the party of emotional investing and the last to leave"

This describes me perfectly! I have been wanting to post about my need to let go of the pain of finding out someone I thought was a best friend...was not. I won't be able to do it today...but I want to post on this later.

(This time I really mean it!)

I will let you know when I get it up!

Thanks for this post...I can completely relate to it!
Anonymous said…
I live Ishiguro, and I can't wait to read the book now.

How nice for your kids that you can relate to their transitional needs. I never thought of saying goodbye to a slide.
kaliroz said…
First off, I had a hard time slogging through that book, Julie. I read it for a book club and didn't really enjoy it. (On a deadline.) I think I need to re-read this. I remember being horrified by it all, but rushing through it and not really taking it all in.

Now, onto the subject at hand.

We really are kindred spirits, are we not Anne?

I'm not good at transitioning at all. I don't cling to things, but man do I cling to people and situations and memories. And I have a really difficult time letting go.

Take, for example, my current situation. Leaving work for grad school. I'm going through one freak out after another because I have a hard time moving from one aspect of my life into another. I have a hard time breathing when I move between places, situations and people.

I try to be zen about it, I really do. But it's not always easy.

It's not easy at all, actually.

I need to read this other book you write about. I'm not a kid but it might come in handy.
Julie Pippert said…
Roz, I am amazed at how frequently some books focus themselves to kids, hen they could just as easily be re-titled as self-help for adults.

Everything I need to know about myself I learned from parenting books and everything I need to know about raising kids I learned in puppy kindergarten. LOL

I rushed through the book a bit too, but then made my self go back and slow down, at which point I saw the mastery. Then again, not everybody likes pistachio ice cream, right?

Anyway, you know I hear you about the big life change.

Yes my dear, kindred spirits. :)


Emily, I think me and my kids are usually the hour's entertainment wherever we go. I wouldn't have thought of saying goodbye to a slide either, but the book suggested it and wow, it is amazing. Her practical advice is pretty spot on for us. We do the same in stores. The kdis see stuff they want, and I'm clear, it's not ours. We can admire it but then we say goodbye. Only yesterday a lady said, "Wow, I've never seen a two year old leave a toy behind without a meltdown like that!" This just after Persistence merrily waved "bye bye dolly!"

Let me know what you think of the book.


Queen, I am so excited you're going to join in! Let me know and I will come right over to link and read.
thailandchani said…
How did you get that post so quickly? I literally just finished it! :)

Okay. Well. My response in the next template.


Julie Pippert said…
Chani! I have myself on notify for your posts! Of course! LOL

Will await your reply. :)
thailandchani said…
As for the book, I have to admit that I saw it as an allegory .. and I have a habit of doing that.

The idea that we are here to serve others in community is not repugnant to me. The idea that we are not fiercely separate little islands unto ourselves is not repugnant.

And that is what I felt the core message of the book was about. "We are cogs in a wheel, no individuality."

While that may be true in a lot of senses, I felt the book was unbalanced. There needs to be a balance between individuality and community and I didn't believe the book addressed that.

Can you see what I'm saying? Maybe other readers don't see that core message and I'm naturally curious to know. :)


I just woke up and haven't even had a sip of coffee yet.. so I'll likely be back, filling up your comment space with more drivel as I think it through. LOL


Julie Pippert said…

Chani, I don't think you're off with the allegory. This what I refer to in my post in two ways (sort of):

1. With this, "...perhaps instead it is our issue of trying to understand how a person can be whole when his or her identity is formed through serving another/others."

2. mentioning Ishiguro's ongoing theme about how a self interacts with a whole

I thought in Remains of the Day he was making clear the point you have.

But in this's near impossible to wrap my mind around being okay in any way with creating people meant to die this way...all while I acknowledged we have that currently. I guess it's different from "created for" versus "choose."

And that's another Ishiguro hotspot: his characters are so often designed such that they purpose is clearly some form of service, but they do choose this.
I would like to interview him about this.

I have to think about that the book doesn't address that imbalance between individuality and community.

That is, I think as you said, the core, and the most complicated point.

Somehow I think he did address it.

It was Tommy's scream, Ruth's actions. KWIM? Then the end ended as it did because it went from "created to" to "choosing." That's difference between leaving the cottages and being called.

I'll have to think further too.
Snoskred said…
Thanks for your comment - I replied on my post. ;) You weren't too far off. :)

I'm going to have to read this book ya'all are talking about!

thailandchani said…
Julie, I could probably really go out on the deep end with the allegory of that book. LOL

Your point about choosing is well-taken.

How about choice in produce and consume culture.. which is what I think the real allegory is ~ in the book. There is no choice. In western culture, people are bred for productivity.

And in essence, he's rebelling against that? Destruction of friendships, destruction of freedom to choose?

Peeling another layer, I know.. but it's where my mind is leading me.

What do you think?


Stephen Newton just recommended a book to me called "Aloft" which I'll probably read this weekend. I get the sense that it's the same kind of thing from another perspective. Written by an Asian guy.


S said…
Oh, Chani, Aloft is terrific.

Julie, your review made me want to order the book today. Thanks for the recommendation.
Mad said…
I haven't read the book.

As for letting go, I've been thinking a lot about this this past week. My sister was visiting. She is a woman governed by all that has happened to her and her lack of control over the past, over people, over situations. Having her visit was exhausting but it was something more, something deeper. I found that the one thing I couldn't let go of was her inability to let go. We each have deeply troubling stances to certain things in our past and yet I move forward despite the past. She cannot. I wish I knew why. I wish I knew why her inability to do so tickled my innards so profoundly.
Letting go... Yeah, not very good at that. Of people, of things, of grudges, all of it.
Christine said…
I'm very interested in that book now! Care to share your copy? LOL

As for Kurchinia's book, it also really helped me recognize things about myself that I never acknowledged before. i love that book.

Not sure how I feel about Clare's philosophy. The quotes here sounds simplistic, like it is just a simple thing. Like it is a simple decision to let something go. But it never really is that was is it? I agreed with you about how it is ok to invest, but also good to know when it is enough? KWIM?

It takes LOTS of transitioning for me too.

And, damn, i hold on to LOTS of things. Too many.
painted maypole said…
interesting. i find I not only have a hard time letting go of the good things, but also the bad things. Why do I still allow a hurt from years ago affect the way I live today? why can't I let it go?? I want to. But I don't know how. I keep bringing it back. Arg.
Anonymous said…
I'm going to have to check out this book. Thanks!
flutter said…
I might have to read this
Girlplustwo said…
i read this and felt very similiarly to what you wrote. i have also read some of the roundup posts and as always, am so impressed.
Kyla said…

Perhaps her inability to let go hinders your own letting go. As long as she is beside you dragging the past along with her, it is following you as well.


I agree with your stance. I agree with the first portion of Clare's reasoning, the fact that letting go doesn't necessarily mean dropping...but I disagree with the second portion. Some things do need to be questioned, to be judged even...from there changes are made.

I am not the best at accepting change or letting go. I'm getting better in spite of myself because of KayTar. That child has challenged me to grow in ways I didn't think possible.

Oh, and in regards to the children saying "Bye bye (insert item here)!" We simply must do this with KayTar, or she just can't understand. Even then it doesn't always work, but we have curtailed quite a few meltdowns that way. Saying "bye bye!" is one of her favorite past times now.
Julie Pippert said…
Snoskred, you are welcome. I saw your reply, haven't had a chance to reply back.

If you read the book, let us know your thoughts!


Chani, I had not considered the idea that he had turned humans into the ultimate (ultimately disturbing) consumable---and thus makes a statement about greed and selfishness, to the point that we would consume another human...and yet, this is a theme that has played out in literature and real life countless times. Hmmm

I'll have to check into Aloft.


SM, well hopefully that is good news, LOL. You'll have to let me know.


Mad, wow, tough and deep but good question. Kyla has a good thought. Perhaps it's also in the same vein of what Snoskred wrote about this time: a frustration that someone we care about is stuck in a dysfunctional rut, ignoring opportunities to get that worry Kyla mentioned.

Do you feel the answer on the edge of your mind? Or very elusive?


Mrs. Chicky, seems to be a common thing. :)


Christine, you come on down, hon, and I'll loan that and any others to you. :) We've got beaches but err it's monsoon and hurricane season. I'll even make you some sangria.

Yes, I agree that it sounded a tad too simple and pat in spots.

And glad to find a fellow Kurcinka fan. :)


Painted Maypole, I hear you! And for me, it's also why do I continue to perceive myself in old, unproductive ways? Project that image onto others, too? I don't know. I did like something Jen said about we will let it go when we've gotten what we need to from it. I wonder if it helps to reframe it as "I'm still using this" rather than "I failed to let this go." I'm such a one for the self-criticism.


Paige and Flutter, let me know if you read it and what you think.


Jen, it was intense, yeah, and I agree: always a stunning group of posts


Kyla, it's good to hear others also go for the first half of Clare but not the second. It is amazing, sometimes, how things go in ways that challenge us. Children of course do this, and KayTar with her circumstances...yet, you always seem to keep your perspective.

The bye bye thing is a great tool for us. I'm so glad I learned about it.
Anonymous said…
Letting go has been huge for me, from the small to the big stuff. Letting go of the things you can not change is the hardest.
Unknown said…
Talking about letting go and letting go really are two entirely different things, aren't they?

I was struck by Mad's comment. I recognized what she described. It is very similar to what I feel around some members of my family. The conclusion I've come to is that it is like recovery from substance abuse. When you are trying to stay sober, there are some people you cut off contact with because your habit of using with them is too strong of a temptation.

When I am around my family, it is like I am an addict who is hanging out with her old party crowd. My uncomfortable insides are me fighting that magnetic pull back into dysfunction. My family hasn't dealt with our history. They tend it pretend it didn't happen.

How do I move past The Past when my family is around? Can I without actually letting my family go, a choice I'm not ready to make.

Um, er, moving on...

The book was fantastic. I think you did a great job of bringing it into this week's Hmm-er.

As far as Clare's statement, I think there is something to be said for letting go being a simple decision. I just think that the simple decision is usually followed by a lot of hard work and that there is a lot of "one step forward, two steps back" to it all.

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