Seven months. That’s how long it took for me to fully digest Michael Kimball’s latest book, Us. Released from Tyrant Books, an emerging indie publishing house located in New York, Kimball’s newest offering is heartfelt and cold, strange and comforting all at once. The intensity packed in this slight book was a huge surprise for me. Written in short chapters (often no longer than a few pages), Kimball manages to interlace little vignettes that can both stand alone as their own short story as well as link together to create a subtly interwoven text that hits the ground running from the very first page and doesn’t give an inch, never letting up.
Told in the first person, first from the eyes of the husband, and later from the vantage point of the grandson recounting his grandfather’s tale of love and loss, Us is a deeply emotional and gut wrenchingly honest take on what it means to lose a loved one and who that person’s memory is maintained. The majority of the first half of the book is told from the husband’s point of view. The second half of the novel introduces us to the grandson, with the husband’s tale still told intermittently. The effect of this switching between narratives reinforces the finite quality of life as Kimball reminds us that one generation’s memories and truths are only as strong as the younger generation’s ability to keep it alive.
We found ways to make our days longer. We followed the sun around our house—from our bedroom and the bathroom in the morning, to the kitchen through noon, the living room through the afternoon, and the dining room for the evening.
At night, we turned all the lights in every room of our house on. We turned the lights on the front porch on. We turned the lights on the back porch and over the garage on too. We wanted to keep the darkness that surrounded our house and us as far away from us as we could.
We wanted it to be daytime all the time. We didn’t need much sleep anymore anyway. She had saved so much of it up while she was sleeping in the hospital and I wanted to be awake for the rest of the time that she was going to be alive.
At times utterly, unbearingly sad, and others strangely beautiful in its truth, Us shifts between these two emotions playing one off of the other, creating a powerful juxtaposition. In many ways, this novel is a story of parallels, a meditation on how to deal with conflicting emotions, dueling feelings on the opposite ends of the emotional spectrum.—Patrick Trotti