So. I was reading one of the many books commenters and e-mailers have suggested to me. In fact, I'd like to take a moment to thank you all for your many generous recommendations; it's been fun requesting millions of books at the library, and finding new and unexpected treasures.
One I picked up was The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and boy is that one great, strange book. It's very sharp, and almost harsh in the way few children's books are now, but many were before. There's a strong whiff of Roald Dahl and The Brothers Grimm in its strict and unforgiving portrayals—of people, dolls, rabbits. And it makes a real attempt to approach the great questions of life: why are we here? What do we owe each other?
But there's also this little issue of death. And its not death of the he-was-so-old-and-it-was-his-time-to-go- and-isn't-it-wonderful-how-the-circle-of-life-works variety. It's death of an innocent. And, what is key in the context in which it's presented, death of a child. A child who suffers from an illness. A child who could be the reader.
I'm always telling Chestnut (who tends to fly into a panic as we're reading and any plot tension at all comes up), "Don't worry. Nothing bad is going to happen. This is a book for little kids and nothing really bad happens to people in books for little kids."
It's not that I think that that's a great thing—"look, don't worry, I would never tell you the truth, honey" but, you know, I'm not all that comfy with the idea of mortality either. And the idea of my child's mortality? My brain shuts down.
I read this book on my own, and so far no one else in my house has picked it up. It's a really wonderful, endearingly strange sort of book. I would recommend it to anyone. But I don't know just what I will say if they ask about death. I mean, I don't exactly doubt my ability to come up with some last-ditch generalized comfort. But no matter what I say, the reality of death will be no further away.