When Cohen Marah steps over the body of his dead father on a cold spring morning, he steps into a labyrinth of memory. In the week that follows, he must confront his traumatic past, a violent present, and the most frightening question of all-did he kill his father?
Cohen Marah finds his father Calvin, nearly dead, in the embalming room of the family’s funeral home. Is Cohen responsible? If so, in what way? As he waits in the hospital for his father to die, Cohen must deal with a rush of emotions and memories brought to the surface by this traumatic experience.
Shawn Smucker takes us back to Cohen’s childhood to explore a son’s relationship with his father, first as a child, then as a man who sees his father’s flaws. Life has happened, often in unpleasant ways, and as Calvin lingers on the threshold between life and death, Cohen feels terribly distant from him. The story of Cohen’s past comes forth in memories and emotions, interwoven with his present.
I’ve seen some reviews talk about this being a dark read and not liking it for that reason. But the darkness, the struggle, is an integral part of the story. This was not a quick read, nor was it always an easy read. But once I was drawn into it, it was hard to put down. The languages flows beautifully and is compelling, even when it doesn’t feel like a roller-coaster ride. Cohen struggles with questions of faith, of feeling like God is distant from him or even gone, while he tries to resolve his complicated feelings for his father. While I’m not a son working through a complex relationship with my father, I have had my own difficult times of wondering why God doesn’t seem to be present anymore. That’s heavy stuff. And as Cohen wrestles with his guilt and grief over his father’s impending death, a memory is jogged loose and revealed that will change how he sees Calvin and will indeed change Cohen himself.
“Maybe that’s the problem with fathers and sons – they lose each other.”
The tale told here is one of struggle, loss, and ultimately redemption. Light will find its way to us through the darkness, and so it is with Cohen.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher. All opinions expressed here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t like.