So this is grief, well. Sat at the kitchen table with all your joys and your miseries sleeping and snoring about you and you sat there wondering what to do for your breakfast…He closes the eyes and tries picturing her, her face, before that, while she looked healthy still. It’s a blank but, the brain doesn’t want to go there, so he sits with the eyes closed just. A moment of peace. You keep on. What else can you do? You keep on.
Ross Raisin begins his novel “Waterline” in the midst of a gathering of friends and family — but not an occasion of joy or celebration — rather for the wake of Mick Little’s beloved wife Cathy, who has perished after a long and painful battle with cancer. He stands in his house staring at the sympathy cards acquaintances have sent — at the words that cannot express what so profoundly must be shared — and wonders “what’s next?”
Soon the guests begin to depart, and within a week, so too do his sons, his daughter-in-law, as well as the “highlanders,” his wealthy brother and sister-in-law. In the absence of company, Mick begins to determine what, exactly, is next. But this question becomes one with which he cannot answer, as it means planning a future without Cathy, and so he does everything in his power to avoid the question altogether.
But with the refusal to make a plan without his wife — with his inability to cope with feelings of responsibility for her death — he is forced to make short-term decisions, such as what to do when the money runs out, where to go when he no longer has work, where to sleep the night when he’s without a bed, or a roof for that matter.
As a shipyard worker in Glasgow, Mick understands that it was he that brought home the asbestos that caused his wife’s cancer, and he begins to ask the question we all inevitably ask when a loved one perishes — why them and not me?
While Raisin is wise to sprinkle humor in even the most unlikely of situations, if you’re looking for a pick-me-up, I advise you to move on. But if you’re searching for a truly masterful story about the power of grief, as well as the process of pulling one’s life together stitch by bloody stitch, I must say — Raisin is a master of his craft, and the story is not one you’ll soon forget.
Check out Raisin’s reading of “Waterline,” as he attempts to don the dialect of a Glasgowian shipyard worker:
Sarah Aylward received a copy of “Waterline” by Ross Raising from the U.S. publisher, Harper Perennial.