When someone I love leaves this earth, I grieve the loss of the characteristics I appreciated in that person and the potential for things experienced together. But I also celebrate in my mind and heart all the things that made me love him or her. One shelf in my library has photos of those who have left my life physically but who remain with me in memory. I still feel sad sometimes, but I take comfort in remembering.
Daniel Anderson, the narrator or Rebecca Rupp's book After Eli, deals with his brother's death in a far different manner. He creates Daniel (E.) Anderson's Book of the Dead in which he lists deceased persons, their years of life, and the causes of their deaths. Each chapter of the book begins with one of those entries. Some are famous people, like Napoleon Bonaparte or Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha or Jim Morrison. Some are people from his own life. But in all cases, the narrator connects an aspect of the person's life or death with his own situation, making perfect sense of it all. The book grates on his father's patience, but Walter, who becomes Dan's trusted friend, rightly assesses it as a way to deal with grief.
This is one of those books I want to recommend to everyone I know. Ms. Rupp created a credible narrator whose voice makes his struggles with friendship, identity, family, and acceptance real for the reader. His discoveries about relationships are ferreted along by the twins who move into the old Sowers house (and who speak in humorous and thought-provoking analogies), their beautiful older sister named Isabelle, his brother Eli's friend Jim (an organic farmer), Jim's wise girlfriend Emma, and Walter, an incredible gifted peer who previously had been unappreciated by Dan.
Walter fills the narrative with interesting thoughts, all shared by Dan at the best moments. I especially loved when he asked, "Can a person step into the same river twice?" Dan and Isabelle listen and ponder this question. A bit later in the discussion, Dan says this:
"What Walter thinks is that people are like rivers. We never stay in the same place but just keep flowing along, learning new stuff and picking up new experiences and changing all the time. So today's you isn't the same as yesterday's you and won't be the same as tomorrow's you.
"But Walter also thinks that there's a real perfect you that you're always trying to get to, and the better you are at living your life, the closer you come to it." pp. 162-163
I hope that is true. It is what I believe about my life.