This is not my normal reading fare – but I was 3 years old when Fear of Flying came out. As I got older, I’d heard about it. It was on the must read list, mostly because it was so controversial (although not in this day and age). In my 30’s I decided to read it and found myself a familiar protagonist. Thoughts and feelings I didn’t even know I had were brought to the surface by this book. And now, Erica Jong has done it again with her recently released novel Fear of Dying.
Fear of Dying once again follows Vanessa – who is now 60 years old (although not really ready to admit it) and questioning everything she’s ever known about life and death. Her husband is twenty years older than her and not in the best of health. Sex is becoming less and less frequent, she’s watching her ailing parents slowly die from disease and old age, and can’t help but wonder what it’s all for? Jong is extremely frank and honest – and sometimes quite crude ( I could do without those parts) however, so many things she said resonated with me, even though I’d like to think I’m not anywhere near 60 at the moment. However it’s true that I can no longer deny that I’m heading into the second half of my life.
Vanessa wants to be young again, yet retain her wisdom, and who doesn’t want that? How many times have we said “if I only knew then what I know now?” Vanessa is questioning everything, including her faith, (or lack of one), her health, her parents, her daughter, her husband, and wondering how she got where she is right at this moment, and more importantly how can she be on her way to being a grandmother already?
It’s a frank story about how we look at the second half of our lives. Wishing for the same excitement we had in our 20s (new relationships, sex, and should I have an affair to spice things up and feel young and attractive again?). It’s fiction – an actual story, not a memoir, but written (I believe) from the author’s actual perspective. It’s ultimately about trying to figure out what’s important and what’s not when it comes to our lives. Finding out how we can be happy and if not happy, then content as we slide into old age.
It’s a coming of age story for mid-life – or maybe I should be honest and call it what it is; a mid-life crisis story we can all relate to.