‘Fine, precise and shocking, but how will Kimball follow this incredible debut?’ asked The Times in 2001. How Much of Us There Was is Michael Kimball’s bold reply. It is a small masterpiece. A husband wakes up to find that his wife has had a seizure during the night. An ambulance is called and she is rushed to the Intensive Care Unit at a nearby hospital, where she lies in a coma. By day he sits anxiously beside her. He tries to think of ways to wake her up. He brings familiar objects to her bedside – her books, her hairbrush, flowers from their garden. He talks to her. He exercises her limbs. At night he sleeps in the chair at her bedside, dreaming that she will wake up, so that they can go back home. Years later the story of this same slow death is re-told by their grandson. He wants to understand his grandmother’s life and death, what it meant to his grandfather, and what it means to him. He wants to understand the long and deeply loving marriage between his grandparents, and – in his own words – ‘how love can accumulate between two people over and through two lifetimes’. How Much of Us There Was is a poignant, heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful novel, from an extraordinary voice in American fiction.
Reviews of How Much of Us There Was
‘It is not often a young writer decides to write about old age, still less romantic love in old age. All of which makes Michael Kimball’s second novel unusual. Not only does he address mortality head-on, but his narrator describes the deep and powerful love between his grandparents as his grandfather quietly and desperately watches his wife slowly dying. The grandfather’s narration is powerful and moving; at times, he tells his story like a child, uncomprehending and breathless’ Rebecca Seal, Observer