Gil Courtemanche

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A Good Death

Courtemanche, Gil

Last Updated: Aug-02-2007
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel


A French Canadian family gathers for Christmas around the ailing patriarch and his quiet wife. But it is dominated by anxiety over the father’s rigid Parkinson’s disease and a recent stroke that have robbed him of clear speech and movement.

Through the eyes of the son who is nearing sixty, the holiday is a painful obligation that must be endured; the toxic atmosphere contains an undeclared emergency. The son admits that he has never loved his father whom he compares to Stalin for his iron-fisted and undemonstrative ways. One of the dad’s greatest sins was stealing credit for the catch of a giant fish that had actually been landed by the son long ago.

Nor does the narrator like his siblings to whom he refers in epithets that convey his disparagement of their proclivities: the Banker, the Vegetarian, the Homeopath, the Medicals, the Buddhists. His young nephew – who has two names—William / Sam—genuinely cares for the feelings and well-being of others, especially the grandparents. The only other person who is granted these qualities is Isabelle, the much younger fiancée of the narrator, in whom he takes possessive pride, as if she exemplifies his own wisdom, taste, and youth.

Suddenly the narrator and William both realize that the patriarch ought to die and that they should help. To the horror of the siblings and with the blessing of his mother they embark on a plan to feed him everything he likes but should not have—and lots of it. Perversely the man improves. The story culminates in a fishing trip where the original sin was committed.

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