"Us" by Michael Kimball is one of those novels that is so evocative, so emotive that in so conjuring, it does a lot to defy labeling or being "understood." Certainly one of its primary themes is mortality, and the effects of that inescapable truth on love and the living. But I'm not entirely comfortable with boiling it down to that. I think it's better to look at it as a great big whole without a distillative thesis.
So then, the whole. Well...
The narrator's wife is stricken with some form of illness, sending the narrator into a panic to save her. What follows is a rather surreal journey into the highs and lows of "The End" (there's some suggestion that the end is not The End, but that's all I'll say). The novel is heartbreaking, crushing. But it's powerfully so. It's the good kind of crushing, too. The kind I think everyone ought to force themselves to feel at least every once in a while. Not as practice. Not as prep for something bigger, but instead for its value as an emotive experience unto itself. Things can have value in and of themselves and not for some great palliative effect they offer later on. I believe this. Honest. I think it might be a touch contrary to the prevalent feeling of what does someone or something offer me as an individual, at this given moment but also possibly into the future. People and things don't have to be commodities, commodities we can then exploit for our specific needs and wants.
Nobody has to learn how to grieve. We know how to do that. Michael Kimball through "Us" offers a very powerful opportunity to be human in a very distinct way. To let us collectively experience a unique component of the human condition, having both its pros and cons, to be sure.
I don't want to oversell it. I feel I should always attach something like a rider that says: "Hey, that's how I experienced it, anyway. I hope you experience something similar because that leads to the great thing of relating, a great thing that people can do, that we have it in us to do." But that's not necessarily what will happen. I'm cool with that and I hope you are, too.
Thanks for reading!
Billy the Kid
1 hour ago