This week, when I was picking up my commentaries for Matthew from the KNU library, I chanced upon The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy. I wasn't too excited about a book solely about the death of the main character, but I picked it up because I'm trying to read as much of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky as I can. Also, it is only 70 pages, so I though it would make for a quick read.
It was a quick read. I'm already done, after only a few hours of reading.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the book. It was actually not as depressing as a book about death might appear to be.
It is basically the account of a man who reassesses his life in the face of death. In a beautiful scene at the end of the book he finally admits that living by societies standards does not actually qualify for a good life, and that all along he had been suppressing his subtle inclinations to go against the flow of society and do the right thing even if it was not quite the "proper" or "decorous" thing.
When he finally repents to his wife and to God, he finds piece on the door stoop of death. And, a bit axiomatically, moves toward the light - which, in the book, is not nearly as cheesy as it sounds here.
At about half way through, I decided that this would be a great book to use as required reading for a pastoral counseling class. It kind of gives an insider's look (though admittedly fictional) of death, something none of us has ever experienced.
I'm at odds about whether to give it 4J's or 5J's, but I'll give it 4J's. It is very short, and all though it was entertaining and moving. It wasn't fabulous.