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Extraordinary by David Gilmour


by David Gilmour

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More of a short story, really, so a novella, probably. Narrator and his older half-sister share an evening together before he enables her to commit suicide. Not a happy book, as they discuss her own past -- broken marriage, affair, move to Mexico where her tragic accident happened -- her troubled son's drug and theft problems, and her daughter's tumultous love life. It's just the one evening, no surprise endings, just a look at life and the crazy hands that are randomly dealt. The conclusion, when he sits with her dead body and sees her life -- her soul -- leave it, is an accurate observation. No romanticism, just reality. ( )
  LDVoorberg | Dec 3, 2017 |
(Fiction, Canadian, Contemporary, Literary)

Long-listed for Canada’s prestigious Giller Prize for Fiction, Extraordinary became a controversial choice after comments made by the author that many saw as sexist. It was a challenge to approach this book then, without preconceived ideas about its value.

Very spare, it’s told from the viewpoint of a man asked by his sister to assist in her suicide. It’s perhaps as objective an account as can be told about this hotly debated subject.

Read this if: you’re interested in the collateral effect of the assisted death of an ill person. 4 stars ( )
  ParadisePorch | Jul 1, 2016 |
This story about a brother assisting in his sister's suicide just felt stagy to me. It's a short novel, consisting primarily of an extended conversation, in which the considerably older sister reflects on her life and children. The medical condition Sally, the sister, has long been plagued with was not credibly depicted--a broken neck, walking around on crutches, and living alone? I couldn't buy it or suspend my disbelief. I had a hard time believing two people could be this witty, erudite, and allusive on the eve of the suicide of one of them. A lot of yakking, no action--which isn't always a bad thing...but this didn't quite do it for me. A fast read and not the worst ever, but not as "extraordinary" as I expected. I'd give it 2.5 stars. ( )
  fountainoverflows | Sep 17, 2013 |
The concept of family is one of a unit that has a strong bond of love and caring. But in many realities those blood lines are connected through lusts and desires, created through alcohol and other substances. And the people are plagued by illness, -both physical and mental. But when a desperate need arises, a family member is the only person someone can connect rely on. And that is the situation David Gilmour brilliantly looks at in his novel Extraordinary.

Page 1-2
What? You didn't know I had a sister? Yes, Sally, a half-sister really. She was fifteen years older than me, my mother's daughter from a turbulent first marriage. I saw her now and again when I was growing up, but probably the differences in our ages, a generation, and the fact that she never lived with us, made her seem more like a sympathetic aunt. She swatted me once, just an impatient cuff on the back of the head, when I was eight or nine - I'd knocked over a flower jar in her kitchen - and I thought, You can't do that, you're not my mother. And yet it wasn't quite like a quarrel with my brother, not on the same level, so to speak, as with a peer.
How you feel about someone when you're very young, their stature in the world compared with yours, sometimes never changes. Which made certain moments between Sally and me confusing. Especially later on.

The book takes place over the course of a Saturday night. A sister has requested that her brother- her half brother - help her in her assisted death. Gilmour documents the whole evening of the two of them reminiscing about their lives. All the joys, the pains, the questions, and the bitter answers are revealed one page at a time.

Link to my complete review ( )
  steven.buechler | Sep 6, 2013 |
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Book description
A sharply original debut collection, How To Get Along With Women showcases Elisabeth de Mariaffi’s keen eye and inventive voice. Infused with a close and present danger, these stories tighten the knot around power, identity, and sexuality, and draw the reader into the pivotal moments where—for better or for worse—we see ourselves for what we truly are.
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A brother and sister meet to discuss her assisted death. Together they share memories of their past and of her children who lead very different lives.

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