This is the story of a hospice nurse and her current patient – Professor Barclay Reed. While it sounds grim and depressing it really isn’t. Nurse Deborah Birch is the protagonist and periodically tells the Professor how her work makes her appreciate the moment – a hug from her husband means so much after she was witness to the final hug of a patient.
There is a second story – Deborah’s husband has recently returned from his third tour in Iraq. He is a sniper, which explains why he is riddled with nightmares, full of anxiety and an all-round loose canon.
Finally, there is Barclay’s novel – “The Sword“. As a retired History Professor and an expert in the Pacific Theatre of WWII, his novel is about Ichiro – the pilot whose plane was launched from a submarine, twice, and flown over the Oregon coast. Ichiro then dropped four bombs in the surrounding forests to set them ablaze.
As Deborah reads The Sword aloud to Barclay, he asks her to believe it. He tells her his story is the only way she will ever be able to reconnect and help her husband battle his demons.
There is a lot going on, but it is Deborah’s commitment to her patient, her assistance on his journey to death that is the real crux of this book. Her humanity and wisdom in her work with the curmudgeonly Barclay are truly a gift. The entire novel gave me a new perspective on many levels – on dying, on war and why we behave as we do.
“I thought it was beautifully written, moving, touching and emotional with strong insight into the human soul.” This sums it up very neatly for me.