Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs here http://saylingaway.wordpress.com
Noelle has been reading Fred’s Funeral by Sandy Day
Fred’s Funeral is a novella by Sandy Day, inspired by hundreds of letters written by the author’s Great Uncle Fred, but a wonderful concoction of her imagination.
Fred Sadler has just died in his room in a hospital for the mentally ill. He sees his cousin and his brother and a whole family of those who died before him, congregating on the other side of an ethereal divide. The problem is, he can’t cross the divide. He finds himself – or at least his consciousness – watching from the ceiling of his room, as his priggish sister-in-law, Viola, and her brother, Thomas, open his one possession, an old battered suitcase. It is Viola who gives her interpretation of Fred’s life based on old memories and the contents of the suitcase.
As they paw through his belongings, Fred is shocked to find Viola’s version of the events of his life is not as he remembers it. Why had he spent so many years locked up in Whitby Hospital for the Insane?
As Fred moves through his funeral and the gathering of the family afterward, and between his memories and the pronouncements of Viola and others, we learn that the young Fred went off to fight in World War I and came back damaged: addicted to binge drinking, constantly angry and full of anxieties. At that time, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome was not recognized, and the remainder of his life was consumed by his trying to govern his emotions and fit in, his family’s attempts to provide and adjust for him, and finally, his placement in the hospital. We are reminded of the barbarity of the so-called modern treatments for patients at that time in such institutions.
What I particularly liked about this story are the ways different people look at the same events, and the ability to see how his confusion, frustration, and mental breakdown – now so understandable – were met with misunderstanding by his family. Fred desperately wants to gain control of his life, to spend his life in the home and with the family he so values, but can’t help pushing them away. The reader can feel his angst and understand his actions, but at the same time see themselves in the family’s shoes. The author does a wonderful job of describing family relationships and deep-seated feelings.
This is a short, but very profound read.
Fred Sadler has just died of old age. It’s 1986, seventy years after he marched off to WWI, and the ghost of Fred Sadler hovers near the ceiling of the nursing home. To Fred’s dismay, the arrangement of his funeral falls to his prudish sister-in-law, Viola. As she dominates the remembrance of Fred, he agonizes over his inability to set the record straight.
Was old Uncle Fred really suffering from shell shock? Why was he locked up most of his life in the Whitby Hospital for the Insane? Could his family not have done more for him?
Fred’s memories of his life as a child, his family’s hotel, the War, and the mental hospital, clash with Viola’s version of events as the family gathers on a rainy October night to pay their respects.
Sandy Day is the author of Poems from the Chatterbox and Fred’s Funeral. She graduated from Glendon College, York University, with a degree in English Literature sometime in the last century. Sandy spends her summers in Jackson’s Point, Ontario on the shore of Lake Simcoe. She winters nearby in Sutton by the Black River. Sandy is a trained facilitator for the Toronto Writers Collective’s creative writing workshops. She is a developmental editor and book coach.
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