Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The End of the Alphabet: Review

The End of the Alphabet by C. S. Richardson is a gorgeous gem of a book.  I originally read this back in 2009 and am glad that the 2013 Bingo Reading Challenge gave me a reason to reread.  It's a book that I find myself recommending over and over again--especially to those who I know are not much into mysteries (my first literary love).

The story is pretty straightforward.  At about the age of fifty Ambrose Zephyr is diagnosed with an unspecified, terminal disease.  His doctor gives him a month (or thereabouts) to live.  Ambrose has always had a fascination with alphabets and travel.  When he was growing up, he would write to embassies and consulates requesting brochures about various countries and cities that interested him.  After receiving the shocking news from his doctor, he and his wife, Zipper (Zappora Ashkenazi), decide to travel in the time remaining to him--a different city or country for every letter of the alphabet.  

What follows is a touching and heart-breaking tale of love and loss and the nature of life and death.  It beautifully illustrates how two people can make the most of their time and it reminds us that we should live life to the fullest every day.  It shouldn't matter if we know how many days we have left.  If we lived as if today might be the last would it change how much we enjoy even the smallest of pleasures?  Would we seek out friends and loved ones more avidly--to share more of life with them?  It all too easy to get caught up in the struggle to make a living and to make ends meet and miss out on all the opportunities for pleasure and happiness.

I'm afraid that this review is short--but so is the book (119 pages).  I don't want to say too much or you might not feel the need to read it.  And you definitely should.  It's really quite lovely.  Five stars on my first go round--and five stars now.

Those who knew him described Ambrose Zephyr as a better man than most. Wanting a few minor adjustments, they would admit, but didn't we all. His wife described him as the only man she had loved. Without adjustment. (p. 9)

[about paintings/art]
Ambrose went back to looking. What he saw didn't need his mother going on about symbols and meanings and madness and genius, he thought. She knew a lot, but she didn't know when to stop complicating things. (p. 26)

She opened her journal and thought of writing. E is for Eiffel's tower, standing in Paris. L is for London and home. Z is for Zipper. T is for terrified. H is for hopeless. (p. 51)

It is just a story. Life goes on. Death goes on. Love goes on. It is as simple as that. (p. 77)

Ambrose Zephyr would sometimes remark that a better man was one supplied with an intelligent woman, the ability to tango, and an able tailor. (p. 101)


roro said...

Added to my Tbr list.thnx for review

Bev Hankins said...

Hope you enjoy it!

Yvette said...

Sounds wonderful. I'm adding it to my list. Thanks, Bev.