Doing the Heart Good by Neil Bissoondath
Winner of The Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction in 2002
The beginning of Neil Bissoondath’s Doing the Heart Good marks the end of a seventy-year-old man’s independent life. Alistair Mackenzie — widower, father, grandfather, retired professor, lover of Dickens and good sherry — is forced to move in with his daughter and her family, bringing with him only a few medals, pyjamas that still bear the smell of smoke, and memory — that territory, alien and untrustworthy, unfailingly inhabited by a familiar stranger.
Seeking to come to terms with a life he has never anticipated, fearful of disappearing after his death, he examines significant episodes from his shattered past, revisiting a lifetime of love and quarrels, friendship and betrayal, war and peace. As he performs that strange and wonderful dance of moving forward while also looking back, the past begins to lend coherence to the confused present and to reveal the thread that connects him to his new future with his daughter, his son-in-law, and his grandson. A sedentary man quietly living out the final years of life, Alistair Mackenzie must learn how to adapt to his place in time — and how not to let the rest of his life pass him by, his family become strangers, his achievements be forgotten.
A novel of memory — of what it means, how it informs, how it can salvage tomorrow from the debris of yesterday — written at the very height of a great artist’s power.
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