HOW SHE DIED by Helen Yglesias
Kirkus Star


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How She Died, the Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship winner, is a shattering book -- a fierce, resistant, cruel, self-destructive and extreme rejection of mortality and a partial attempt to show that we die the way we live. Often very messily. Like Mary who does not go gentle into the night -- friend of Jean who shares the first person narration here; wife of Matt who shares Jean during the course of the deathwatch; daughter of a famous Rosenberg type atom spy and brought up by the Committee on the politicized left; and mother of two youngsters, the last just born after a pregnancy which spread the cancer which is eating her alive, all over. Having witnessed doom in the eyes of those around her in spite of a few queasy reassurances, Mary decides to start up a new lifestyle via communities in a last denial of many things -- her marriage, the false political premises of the Party and the Committee, her biological entrapment at every level. And even, as now, when forces clearly beyond our control preempt our destiny, Mrs. Yglesias seems to be saying something about the mode of action we can choose -- individual or collective, private or public, sordid or (ironically) saintly. All of this potentiates the book with a kind of consuming commitment which overrides judgment (one is really too exhausted to exercise any). In the foreshortening shadow of How She Died, one is reminded of Doris Lessing. The novel has a heart and gut immediacy, tremendous energy and a savage shaft. You will have been there.

Pub Date: Feb. 14th, 1971
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin