REVIEW: A Death in the Family by James Agee

Format:  Audiobook (CD)
Genre:  Autobiographical Novel
ISBN:  0788771647
Published:  2000 (audio)
Setting:  Knoxville TN

Rating:  5 of 5 stars

Back of the Book Blurb:

Published in 1957, two years after its author’s death at the age of forty-five, A Death in the Family remains a near-perfect work of art, an autobiographical novel that contains one of the most evocative depictions of loss and grief ever written. As Jay Follet hurries back to his home in Knoxville, Tennessee, he is killed in a car accident?a tragedy that destroys not only a life, but also the domestic happiness and contentment of a young family. A novel of great courage, lyric force, and powerful emotion, A Death in the Family is a masterpiece of American literature.

My Thoughts:

This was a well crafted a book as I have ever read.  It is a powerful story of what happens to a family in the immedaite aftermath of an unexpected death, and Agee is as pitch perfect as is possible in giving voice to the various characters in this book.  His choice of words and phrases are such that each individual is entirely believable and authentic, with a unique voice and a complexity of character that leaves nothing wanting.

Agee has a mastery of the language that rivals writing peers, and the resulting prose appears both effortless and flawless in its formation.  He delivers complex experiences and emotions with simplicity, while never relegating himself to simplistic language or condescending construction.  It is an easy read, not because it has light subject matter or rudimentary language, but rather because the story is written with such linguistic beauty that it seems as natural as if the reader him/herself were speaking.

In the end, regardless of the emotional messiness of a family at loose ends, this is a satisfying read in every way.  The story unfolds as it should, naturally, without a manufactured happy ending…just as one would expect in life.  And Agee guides us through all of the emotional upheaval with aa sensitive voice and linguistic ease.

If you have not read this book, I highly recommend it.

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