“When All Is Said” by. Anne Griffin
A Book Review with Spoilers
“When All is Said” by Anne Griffin is a beautiful story that broke my heart. This book like many others I have read or listened to was a recommendation from a co-worker. Recently having lost my father to COVID this book almost instantly had me in tears. I can relate to the main character’s actions. He starts off the book talking about how he has finished packing up his belonging and labeled all of the boxes so that his son doesn’t have to go through everything. Just that statement clued me into the fact that he was preparing for his end. It is something I see my own mother doing. Trying to get everything ready and settled so when she goes we don’t have to go through everything. I hate it because it breaks my heart the thought I may have to be without her. Anyway, so from the beginning, the book is tugging on my heart. Then he begins remembering his life.
The main character in this story is the 84-year-old man Maurice Hannigan. He is an Irish man that lives alone now that his wife Sadie passed away two years prior. The story goes back and forth in his memories as he talks about selling off his property and businesses and tells his friend that handles his financials that he is checking into a nursing home. As he is sitting in the bar of a hotel he recounts his relationship with the school and his older brother Tony. All through his early years in school, he struggled and it was his brother that always encouraged him along until it is decided that school is not an option for him. He goes to work for the Dollards with his mother to start bringing in money instead of completing school. Here he endures the abuse of the Dollard son Thomas and steals a coin from him for revenge. This act sends him down a road of revenge against the formerly wealthy family. He eventually builds up a substantial amount of wealth on his own, he marries the love of his life Sadie and they discover they can’t have children. They see a specialist that helps them get pregnant with their first child Molly who dies in the womb. Eventually, they conceive their son Kevin who is nothing like his father and goes off to become a famous journalist in the United States. He becomes attached to a woman named Emily because he imagines this woman would be what his own daughter would be like had she lived. Because of this he inadvertently saves the Dollard family from financial ruin when he helps her get the family out of debt and save her father’s hotel. It is in this hotel that he drinks a concoction of pills so that he can die on his own terms and be reunited with his wife Sadie.
As the reader, you feel his pain, his joy, and his disappointment. I was excited to learn that he and his wife were pregnant and crushed when he had to say goodbye to his daughter. But I loved how he saw her at different ages in his imagination. Even though he had lost his brother and his daughter they never seemed to leave him. They were his conscious throughout his life helping to guide his decisions and give him strength and courage when he needed it. Many times he would find himself referring to how Tony would react to something. I even laughed when he would argue with the idea of Tony’s reaction saying something like “what would he know about it anyway.”
This was a beautiful story, incredibly well written, and very well-read in the audiobook. The narrator Niall Buggy just made the story come to life. It felt like I was watching all of this happen. I wanted him to tell his son every word of what he was thinking throughout the story, but even the recording he made for Kevin at the end was at least enough to let his son know what we all want to hear, that he was proud of him and all of his accomplishments and that he loved him.
Despite the many tears, I hope you all take the time to read it. It is definitely a story you don’t want to miss.