In My Time of Dying by Sebastian Junger [7/10]

Sebastian Junger is a brilliant writer, penning prose that flows with rhythm, that is thick with telling detail, and that is driven by flawless plotting. I haven’t been drawn to his more military works but In My Time of Dying: How I Came Face to Face with the Idea of an Afterlife immediately appealed to this existential worry wart. Scarcely longer than a novella, the book relates the author’s tussling with mortality following a near fatal medical emergency. As ever, Junger beguiles: listen to this: “Eventually, children start providing reassurance to their parents rather than the other way around…”The first two thirds, the author reporting (almost as if in a war zone) his own experience juxtaposed with flashbacks of early reckoning with sickness and death, is a sweet read, and that alone is basis for recommending the book. If the final third, in which he explores, with honesty and obsessiveness, a growing conviction that his experience signalled the truth of some form of cosmic afterlife … if that climax frustrates a reader (as it did me), his treatment leaves plenty of room for an interesting debate. In My Time of Dying seems, after the read, a superbly written, heartfelt, if somehow odd, book unlike any I have read this year.

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