A Death in the Family

death in the family cover image A Death in the Family

James Agee
General Fiction
Penguin Classics, 2009
Paperback - 320 pages
$16.00

Fifty years ago I picked up this book and read its prelude – Knoxville Summer of 1915. And then I read it again and again. No piece of writing had ever so fully satisfied my own personal literary taste. None! And so it has been lo those fifty long years. The novel which follows is one of the most poignant depictions of loss and grief ever written. While still in the thrall of Knoxville, the reader is stunned as the narrator’s father is killed in an automobile accident while returning home from an out-of-town errand. The young and happy family is torn apart. We enter the hearts and minds of each of the characters – his wife, his children, his parents, and his brother-in-law – as each tries to make sense of this tragic loss. All is rendered in powerful, lyrical prose made the more evocative by the fact of Agee’s father’s similar death when he was six.  A grim, but deeply satisfying read.