The Other Side of Air
Ballantine, 2006 (2006)
Read an Excerpt
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
he Other Side of Air
- published after the death of its author, Jeanne Braselton, in 2003 - deals with dying, and with the dignity of those who remain behind. Katy Doyal knows her end is near. She has been married for nearly sixty years to Ephraim, who was also her dear childhood friend. Their relationship has been so close and tightly knit that their only son Wyatt always felt excluded and inadequate, and expressed this in criticism and disapproval of his parents and their lifestyle. Wyatt's attitude has crippled his own marriage, so that his wife Ann feels '
' and is on the brink of leaving him.
hat does Katy do? She can't bear the thought of Ephraim's giving up after her death, or having to deal with Wyatt's plan to move him to Florida. So, with help from the canny lead intensive care nurse Glenda, Katy hires Rose - whose '
sturdily vigorous figure said she could jump over and crack open my chest, but her hair, cheeks, lipstick, and purse said she'd spent a great deal of time dancing
' - to look after Ephraim and his interests for the brief time she expects him to remain behind her. Katy leaves detailed written instructions and explanations.
nd she observes what unfolds from '
the other side of air
', where all that remains of her is her love and where '
Time has become that one adored instant, spiritually outstanding.
' Rose - as Katy expected - proves able to carry out her wishes, to protect Ephraim's peace of mind, and to act as a catalyst of change in Wyatt's life, in particular bringing him closer to his father. Along the way, Rose reads to Ephraim letters left by Katy, full of her mother's advice, including this succinct wisdom: '
Respect life. Respect death. Do the best you can in between.
hough its story is straightforward, your mind will linger on
The Other Side of Air
after the last page has been turned. Kaye Gibbons has written an
, describing her own relationship with the author, and telling us that Jeanne Braselton '
loved using the language of her place, of Georgia, to both document and transcend the life of that place.
' I recommend this novel to reading groups - and it includes
Questions and Topics for Discussion
at the end.
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