By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
"A lot of people have asked me, ‘How did you imagine that?’" Minot says. "But it’s kind of an impossible question to answer. I just imagined it, just like an actor would do, from knowing what it’s like to be sick, or drugged from an operation, from having watched someone being tended to when they’re in that state. It was part of the reason for writing this book: I wanted to put myself in the mind of someone who was lying there knowing that she was going to die." And the readers who marvel at her success, Minot points out, must have done some imagining themselves. "They say, ‘How did you know? How did you convey it so well?’ Well, how do youknow I did it so well? Because, you know, neither of us has died."
A better question might be how Minot brought her readers into Ann’s dream state without plummeting them into despair: Evening is as much a sensual wonderland as it is a document of Ann’s final days. Ann’s thoughts are not without pleasure, and at times her groggy disappearing seems an enviable escape from the broken marriages and dwindling bank accounts her own daughters muddle through. Her story is dislocating in a way fiction should always be but almost never is, and the effect can be thrilling.
"It’s a new experience," says Minot, who makes a telling distinction between a story that’s sad and one that’s depressing: "Sadness can sometimes be voluptuous. It can contain a great deal of love — it can be burstingwith love that maybe is gone. But depression leaves you no out." And even Ann on her deathbed has a chance to examine her life anew, albeit "at the terrible price of suffering and isolation," Minot allows. "I think if you’re really hanging on to life, it’s an awful, awful state to be in. But I’ve read a lot of accounts of people’s last hours, and rarely was someone crying out, ‘Wait, no, don’t take me away!’ Only the people around them were saying, ‘No, don’t go.’ There’s sudden death and violence, horrific deaths, but a lot of it is a gentle passage."
Which doesn’t mean that Minot altogether embraces her own mortality. "It doesn’t sit right with me," she admits. "There’s an Edna St. Vincent Millay poem that says, ‘Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave/Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;/Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave./ I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.’
"That," she says, "I agree with. But at the same time, death is a fact there at the bottom of everything, whether we acknowledge it or not. If you don’t believe in an afterlife, which I don’t, then this is it. This is it, and it’s going to end. What does that say about it all?"