As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

At the heart of this 1930 novel is the Bundren family's bizarre journey to Jefferson to bury Addie, their wife and mother. Faulkner lets each family member, including Addie, and others along the way tell their private responses to Addie's life.


I know as a self-professed “book nerd” I am supposed to love this book. I mean, it’s written by William Faulkner, one of the greatest American writers. Of course I should love it, right? Right? Unfortunately, I cannot say that I do. I didn’t hate the novel, but I didn’t love it either. I found the basic plot horrifying. This family spends the entire book trying to bury the recently deceased Addie, which takes days upon days to accomplish. The corpse is almost lost in a river, almost burned in a barn fire, and is delayed so much that the sink is undeniable by anyone who passes near it. While I get that Addie’s family was trying to fulfill her dying wish, at some point enough is enough.

I did like how Faulkner continually changed perspective throughout the novel. Each of his characters is unique and had their own parallel story, each I assume represents a way of living or dying. The language takes some getting used to, as he employes a heavy Southern dialect. This book is very “Southern,” not just because of it’s setting, but also because of its religious connotations and ideas of “proper” behavior. This naturally leads to rampant hypocrisy, all done covertly, of course. Nevertheless, the story is at times confusing. Some events lack context, at times the thoughts of characters are jumbled or refer to things that happened but not explained, and I was often left with the feeling that I missed something. I don’t mind having to think about a narrative while I read it. I guess I just prefer to think about it because it is thought provoking, not because I’m trying to put a puzzle together that is clearly missing a few pieces.

While I feel that Faulkner’s writing has merit, it’s just not my cup of tea. Like I said, in the end I am indifferent to this book. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t like it either. I think this novel falls quite nicely into the “to each their own” category. Some people will love it, others will not. You will need to decide for yourself which side you fall on.

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