A Good Death.


208 pages
ISBN 978-1-55365-215-1
DDC C843'.6





Translated by Wayne Grady
Reviewed by Lynne Perras

Lynne Perras is a communication arts instructor in the Faculty of
General Studies, University of Calgary.


It is no surprise that A Good Death has received such positive response from literary critics and readers alike. This second novel from Gil Courtmanche is a touching, revealing, and often painful story dealing with timely and universal themes that will appeal to almost everyone. Courtmanche courageously explores the physical and psychological changes in old age, the complexities within the parent-child relationship, and searing end-of-life issues in beautifully written and translated prose.


Set in contemporary Montreal, much of the novel’s action occurs on Christmas Eve during a family gathering. The elderly French-Canadian father suffers from Parkinson’s disease and is surrounded by this wife and his grown children and their families—all of whom believe they know best how his remaining time should be spent. The book is narrated by Andre, the eldest son, and he describes through flashbacks the brutal dictatorship his father imposed on his family, particularly his children. Andre observes that his father was a master of physical and emotional abuse, and he often compares his father’s rule to that of Stalin. His cruel ways notwithstanding, now that the elderly man has become frail and dependent, his son wants him to enjoy his last months or years free from the dietary rules that Andre’s siblings insist upon. Despite the fact that eating rich foods and drinking wine may hasten his death, Andre believes his father should be permitted certain indulgences. Supporting his belief is Andre’s young nephew, whose youth and lack of history with his grandfather allow him to perceive the situation with clearer vision than his aunts and uncles. As time passes, both of Andre’s parents tire of living and both come to desire a “good death.” Andre finds himself struggling with his conflicting emotions toward his mother and father and his desire to help them.


This poignant novel will engage and perhaps shock the reader in places; its treatment of universal concerns of life and mortality will most certainly encourage contemplation and reflection.


Courtemanche, Gil., “A Good Death.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 20, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/28460.