I'm not a crier. While I shed tears at appropriate occasions like weddings and funerals and may break down while giving a particularly sentimental speech, I rarely cry during movies (unless it's a serious tear-jerker, which I try to generally avoid) and even less so when reading a book. I remember crying over Bastard out of Carolina and needing serious proverbial therapy in order to deal with the disturbing ending. I was also all mopey over The Passion. But I read those books years ago and the ducts have been dry ever since. Maybe it's because I hadn't read anything that's really moved me in such a way. That is until I picked up Never Let Me Go at the library.
Japanese British author Kazuo Ishiguro's (Remains of the Day, A Pale View of the Hills) latest novel is a masterpiece. Essentially it is about the life-long yet somewhat dysfunctional friendship between three characters: Kathy, Ruth and Tommy who attended an idyllic boarding school of sorts in the English countryside called Hailsham.
The novel unfolds entirely in flashbacks through Kathy's reminiscences, which all possess a touch of bittersweet sadness and childlike wonder. As she talks about lazy days lying about in the fields, petty fights, gossip about teachers (called guardians at Hailsham), self-conscious social interactions and all the other things that make up a good bildungsroman, you are swept away into your own awkward childhood and adolescent experiences.
All those hurts and pangs and yearnings I once had, drifted right up to the surface. Making me thankful, once more, that I never have to go through any of that crap ever again. Unless I'm reliving it through a book of course. I don't want to write about the saddest part of the novel, which would give away the ending, but only say that it haunted me many days after. In fact, I had to stop and breathe and run for tissues just to get through those final scenes; which is not to say that Never Let Me Go is a depressing read.
Indeed, there is something about the characters' experiences, though presented with a subtle elusiveness, which is powerful and uplifting. And, despite the tears, I am thankful to Ishiguro for both bringing me along for the trip and creating this world and these characters, which have stayed with me long after I closed the book.
Never Let Me Go has earned its position on my all-time favorite books list. Even though it made me cry. Or maybe because of it.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Hardcover (304 pp)
Knopf: April 5, 2005