I have recently finished reading A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. It was an amazing read and I am so thankful to my friend Deborah Bryan or recommending it. Now, I have to tell you, before I even started the book I was hooked .. hardcover, heavyweight semi-glossy paper, that intoxicating new book smell, the feel and weight of the book in my hand … I may indeed be a book geek. I had purposely stayed away from descriptive reviews, I knew only that this book had moved my friend in a way that would stay with her forever; I believe I know why.
Without knowing just what to expect, I started in on it one afternoon. I finished it that night .. or perhaps better said very early the next morning. I was spent. In a good way. If the book had not been able to reach into my soul with its long twiggy fingers, just the story and the telling of it would have been enough to empty and fill me. The fact that it touched me, much as it did Deb, was a bonus of sorts. When I did finish it I remarked to her “Sooooo .. I finished A Monster Calls last night (couldn’t sleep so I might as well read, right?). I thank you for yet another point in the right direction. My sinuses do not. More on this book to follow. It was indeed remarkable.”
What I have to say on the book is that everyone should read it. What I have to say because of the book is something else entirely. From the very first page, I noticed that my pulse had quickened. It wasn’t racing, I wasn’t scared; I was simply excited to continue. I was enthralled by the storytelling, by both the author and the characters. I love feeling like I am experiencing a story and not just reading it. With A Monster Calls that was easy, partly because of the writing and partly because of my own backstory.
have had two older brothers. I now have one. My closest-in-age brother, who was three years older than me, died when he was 32. That put me at 29 and twenty-nine years is not long enough to have a brother in your life, especially one who was your other half from the time you were born. I don’t feel the need to tell you all the things we did together, or for each other; what we meant to each other or how we were sometimes mistaken for twins. I believe that saying BlueEyes was my other half should tell you how close we were, from start to finish.
BlueEyes contracted HIV sometime in the early- to mid-eighties. My brother loved life and lived it to the fullest. He was a flight attendant for many years and it truly was a vocation for him. He remained “healthy” up until about the summer of 1993 when he started losing weight. It wasn’t until the fall of that year, after being treated for a certain parasite, that it was discovered he had another, smaller parasite, cryptosporidium, that had sneakily been hiding behind the bigger one. By the time this discovery had been confirmed it was far too late to do anything really helpful. BlueEyes stopped flying at the end of October. By the end of November my brothers and I had taken the two hour drive up to our parents’ to let them know he was dying. My parents aged about 20 years that weekend. At the beginning of December we told some close friends and did some Christmas shopping. BlueEyes and I stopped at banks and businesses to take care of some power-of-attorney business. After a couple of trips to the ER to battle dehydration and dangerous potassium levels, BlueEyes was admitted to hospital on 13 December, 1993. That Monday a friend picked me up early from work, walked me to a pub, shared a couple of pints and then walked with me to visit my brother. It was the last time she saw him and it was the best afternoon I would have for a long, long time. My “little” brother would remain in the hospital for twelve days; my parents came to the city and stayed at the house I shared with my ex-partner and her girlfriend; my oldest brother (SkinnyGuy) spent a lot of time at the hospital as did my parents and I; BlueEyes’ boyfriend was there most of the time; the chief of the hospital was a very close friend of BlueEyes’ and made sure he was well taken care of. Most of those twelve days have blurred in my memory. On Christmas Day, 1993, we were advised that BlueEyes would most likely not survive the night. He, himself, was very concerned that we not miss Heilig Abend (Christmas Eve), which we of course already had, unbeknownst to him. We opted to take him home. We ordered oxygen, we drove him to his apartment, we scurried over to my house to get my little Christmas tree and set it up in his living room. He handed out the presents he had bought for everyone just three weeks before. He was so very happy that he hadn’t missed Heilig Abend. We didn’t disabuse him of that belief. The oxygen came, we put him to bed, the boyfriend stayed, SkinnyGuy went home, my ex took my parents to our house and eventually came back to get me. We had all said our goodnights and goodbyes and were loathe to leave but BlueEyes just needed to rest. Being home, he hung on for dear life. Literally. We all visited with him for four more days. On the evening of the 29th of December, 1993, with SkinnyGuy at his house, my parents back at my house after having visited earlier in the day, my ex drove me over to see BlueEyes. It was just the four of us: him and me, his boyfriend and my ex. We sat, we “talked,” we “joked,” and it was getting late. My ex wanted to get going, we both had to get up early for work the next morning. We said goodbye, I started to get up off the couch and BlueEyes tugged at my sleeve, asking me without words to stay. We stayed. We sat a bit longer, the boyfriend fed him a little bit of pudding and BlueEyes collapsed onto the floor. My other half died.
A Monster Calls isn’t about HIV/AIDS. It isn’t about siblings. It is about nightmares and monsters and love. And it is about me. It took me a very long time to understand that the 29th of December is just a date on a calendar. I didn’t come to that understanding without help. It took me even longer to understand that BlueEyes tugging on my sleeve wasn’t just to get me to stay; it was to help me allow myself to let go. I didn’t understand that until I finished reading this book.
Read this book.