Monday, June 23, 2008

Guest Blog--Sweet Death, Kind Death by Amanda Cross

A few weeks ago, I read The Edge of Doom written by Amanda Cross. The novel has a copyright date of 2002, and part of the story hinges on the relatively new technology of DNA testing to determine parentage. However, Kate Fransler and her attorney husband Reed don’t seem to have heard of the Internet.

Puzzled by this inconsistency, I looked up some information myself on the Internet. I knew that Amanda Cross was the pen name of Carolyn Gold Heilbrun who taught English at Columbia University for over thirty years. Could she really have not used a computer?

What surprised me was the discovery that she killed herself in October 2003 – one year after this book was copyrighted. Her son is reported as saying that she was not ill but simply thought that her life was complete and should be over.

A week later while traveling by air, I started reading Sweet Death, Kind Death by Amanda Cross (1995). In the book, Kate Fransler is asked to look into the suicide death of a professor at a small women’s college.

As Kate begins to look into her death, she discovers that Patrice was obsessed with death. In fact, Patrice had told several people that when she felt as if her life was complete, she would take her own life rather than go on living. As in most of Cross’s books, the story unfolds largely in interviews or conversations among the characters. This book explores the dead woman’s preoccupation with death and the circumstances that lead up to her death.

I am convinced that Heilbrun would have found me dreadfully dull and slow witted. I could never have carried on a reasonably intelligent conversation with her. Her characters talk about books I have never read and authors I have never heard about.

I was engrossed and intrigued by this novel, though, since I am certain that I was reading the philosophy of the author herself. The characters in Sweet Death, Kind Death were surprised by Patrice’s death because it seemed so untimely. It is extremely difficult for me to imagine a healthy woman of 77 taking her own life as Heilburn did. I wonder if her family was prepared for her death. It seems to me that she may have continued to be a productive and creative woman for many more years.

This book was not a biography. It presumably was purely a mystery novel. For me, it was a new experience to find myself as involved with the author while reading as I was with the story.

1 comment:

The Aspirant said...

How morbid...I LOVE IT! Cross sounds like an interesting author who obviously thought she knew more about life than she really did. Oh, professors!!