James Agee died before his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Death in the Family, was completed. The book was edited and published posthumously. I share this story about the novel because as I read it, it seemed to me as if parts of it were missing. Nevertheless, the novel is stellar.
This is a story about a married man in his mid-thirties who, after receiving a call in the middle of the night from his brother informing him that their father is at death’s door, leaves his wife and two small children to rush to his father’s bedside. Ironically, he has a car accident on the way home the following night and dies.
Told in the omniscient voice, there are many issues addressed in addition to death. Alcoholism, religion, racism and aging are presented as the narrator leads the reader along the grief sticken path of the deceased man’s family. This story is so well-written; you can’t help but feel it down in your soul.
I wish James Agee had lived to complete his novel; especially since it is autobiographical. It is such a fine piece of work. Much like the father in the novel whose life was cut short, I can only wonder what Agee’s final manuscript would have been.