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McCrum asks: can we make peace with what Freud calls 'the necessity of dying'? Searching for answers leads him to brain surgeons, psychologists, cancer patients and writers for advice and wisdom. For anyone preoccupied by living in the lengthening shadow of mortality, Every Third Thought is an enthralling guide and companion.
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By Gillian on 12-21-17
Ends Lightly, But Boy How Grim!
Every Third Thought is the concept of coming to terms with human frailty and raging against the dying light. It's long on grimness, short on optimism. It's a study of how we all step out of the world, and it sort of reminded me of a modern How We Die, with its chapters on the horrors and indignities of dementia and Alzheimer's.
But there's more! More of the hopelessness and unfairness of Parkinson's. More of the ravages of chemotherapy and radiation. More of the utter futility of being bound by a stroke-damaged brain. More of just plainly and simply aging to the point of humiliating dependency.
It does have its sages, its heroes, its resilient people, but boy was I kinda worn down by it all. I live and breathe dying memoirs, hospice memoirs, books on the grace of dying, and Every Third Thought is a good one, it's just that it's low on wisdom. At the end, McCrum finds the most wisdom from C.S. Lewis's A Grief Observed, and I have to agree. That's a much better, more inspiring work. Still, this book is better than a lot of them and sheds light on the science behind today's leading causes of death.
Don't expect any sense of spirit as it is also unapologetically secular. There is nothing after we die, so McCrum encourages us to live The Now. With that, and a happy ending, I felt I'd managed to catch my breath on a pretty grim tour of what's in store for me, for all of us.
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