Select one of the keywords
The Other Side of Air    by Jeanne Braselton order for
Other Side of Air
by Jeanne Braselton
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2006 (2006)

Read an Excerpt

* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Other Side of Air - published after the death of its author, Jeanne Braselton, in 2003 - deals with dying, and with the dignity of those who remain behind. Katy Doyal knows her end is near. She has been married for nearly sixty years to Ephraim, who was also her dear childhood friend. Their relationship has been so close and tightly knit that their only son Wyatt always felt excluded and inadequate, and expressed this in criticism and disapproval of his parents and their lifestyle. Wyatt's attitude has crippled his own marriage, so that his wife Ann feels 'second-best' and is on the brink of leaving him.

What does Katy do? She can't bear the thought of Ephraim's giving up after her death, or having to deal with Wyatt's plan to move him to Florida. So, with help from the canny lead intensive care nurse Glenda, Katy hires Rose - whose 'sturdily vigorous figure said she could jump over and crack open my chest, but her hair, cheeks, lipstick, and purse said she'd spent a great deal of time dancing' - to look after Ephraim and his interests for the brief time she expects him to remain behind her. Katy leaves detailed written instructions and explanations.

And she observes what unfolds from 'the other side of air', where all that remains of her is her love and where 'Time has become that one adored instant, spiritually outstanding.' Rose - as Katy expected - proves able to carry out her wishes, to protect Ephraim's peace of mind, and to act as a catalyst of change in Wyatt's life, in particular bringing him closer to his father. Along the way, Rose reads to Ephraim letters left by Katy, full of her mother's advice, including this succinct wisdom: 'Respect life. Respect death. Do the best you can in between.'

Though its story is straightforward, your mind will linger on The Other Side of Air after the last page has been turned. Kaye Gibbons has written an Afterword, describing her own relationship with the author, and telling us that Jeanne Braselton 'loved using the language of her place, of Georgia, to both document and transcend the life of that place.' I recommend this novel to reading groups - and it includes Questions and Topics for Discussion at the end.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Contemporary books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews