Falling Out of Time, by David Grossman, is a novel that had me engrossed from the first page to the last, and then back again, throughout some of the pages.
The novel is written in a unique format, part poetry, part theater play and part independent prose. This works, because the individual formats vividly illuminates the characters, their thoughts and their feelings regarding death.
Oh, the sorrow, the sadness and excruciating pain of it all, so many individuals banding together to journey towards their children, children who have died. The anguish, the need to reunite, the after-effects and affects of death are portrayed with insight, empathy and the continual mourning process of not letting go.
The expressions of grief and mourning are compelling, profound and caused this reader to reread specific pages. The writing is incredibly overpowering and intense, yet filled with beautiful prose that connects each poetic articulation so brilliantly. I can not say enough.
The never-ending/eternal fragments left behind to those who remain are depicted with masterful word-imagery. The poetic prose is absolutely stunning, poignant, heart-wrenching. As a parent, I can not imagine one of my children leaving this earth before me. It is an unspeakable thought. And, that is what the title implies: The word “death” is too agonizing to utter, as if saying the word finalizes the death, making the reality a starkness. The main character, formerly known as “Man”, now, “Walking Man”, chooses to define death as a person who has “fallen out of time”
He, known as “Man”, and his wife are trying to begin to communicate about their son’s death, five years after the fact. Their relationship since then has been one of non-communicative status. His death has determined how they have reacted, or not verbally reacted, over these past few years…years that seem like an eternity. They try to bring him back to life through memories, and that proves to be more painful than if they remained silent. He becomes “Walking Man” and decides to leave the house and go “there”. He wants to see his son again. His wife reminds him that there is no “there”, but only a “here”. He does not agree, and leaves, beginning to walk.
He walks, walks and walks some more, circling around the town, and along the way he gathers more people who have lost children, and they band together in commitment to find a way to go “there” to reunite with their lost loved ones. Death becomes a communal loss. Each individual is part of the whole, with their individual losses merging into one.
From the “Town Crier”, the “Centaur”, the “Cobbler”, the “Midwife” and others, they are all on a mission, seeking their departed child. They all verbalize their loss, remembering moments past, remembering the good with the bad. Some regret their actions while their child was living, some linger in a block wall state, unable to move forward. And, they all are trying to find the wall in which they can somehow cross through to see their children. Their journey and struggle is heart-wrenching. Their sorrow reverberates throughout the pages, like an unending funeral march, an unending and silent howl streaming through the time continuum.
The majority of the lines of poetic prose gripped me, left me with lumps in my throat. Here is a sample of Grossman’s prose..a minute reflection of so many lines that moved me and spoke to me.
In August he died, and when that month was over, I wondered
How can I move
to September While he remains
I have not lost a child, but lost my father when I was a teenager, and the last five words (in the example below) resonate with me, the void of loss still here, over five decades later.
“He is dead,
he is dead. But
Such boldness in those last five words, such stark reality. And, that is the foundation of the novel. The book is a metaphor for death, death in the sense of all of the lingering aspects of loss and accepting the loss and journeying forward.
I won’t go into more detail regarding the story. You must read it yourself in order to gain the full understanding of the masterful and brilliant undertaking that David Grossman has endeavored in writing Falling Out of Time.
I could expound on my review so much more, but I feel the novel needs to be read for the full impact of its brilliance.
Falling out of Time was first published in Israel, five years after David Grossman’s son, Uri, was killed during the Second Israel-Lebanon War. Does that matter in the scheme of things? I don’t really know, other than the fact that the intense emotional content must stem from some place deep within that many individuals have never accessed.
I can imagine countless others reading this amazing novel, and gaining a sense of hope and inspiration regarding loss, love, and moving towards finality and acceptance, acceptance with unending bittersweetness and loving memories.