For those looking for a light summer-read to breeze through on their holiday, Will Boast’s Epilogue might not be the best choice. Telling the story of one man’s confrontation with unimaginable loss, this book is one that demands to be read in order to experience the depth of feelings expressed. Epilogue chronicles the events occurring in the author’s life during his mid-twenties and tells how, within the course of a few short years, he loses his three closest family members. However, what makes this memoir so compelling is not the series of tragedies that befall the writer but rather the sheer, unadulterated honesty with which he conveys his own story. Told in a non-linear time sequence, the story moves backwards and forwards between Boast’s past and present and, in doing so, creates a scrapbook of memories.
Epilogue is a story bursting with juxtapositions and constant tensions: between the author’s old family and his newly discovered one; between his English roots and his American childhood; between endings and beginnings. What can be ascertained through this is a theme which is arguably at the very centre of Epilogue; the search for identity. In what feels like a therapeutic transition not only for the writer but also for the reader, Boast’s highly introspective style and the way in which he unreservedly shares his most personal thoughts and fragments of his character gives Epilogue the air of a confession made to a close friend or confidante. Even when his thoughts don’t paint him in the most favourable way, such as when he feels uncomfortable at a gay wedding or when he allows his grief to act as an excuse for treating an ex badly, his willingness to be entirely honest mitigates our disapproval of his actions. Furthermore, this honesty serves to develop an unspoken relationship between the reader and the author which compels us to follow his testament to the very end of the book. By repeatedly asking himself questions about his family history, in his at times almost passive state of mourning, the narrator is set out on a quest that defines both his past and his future. The small, seemingly meaningless family moments- such as a family dinner or a road trip- which he recalls with such painful clarity, all serve as part of the jigsaw puzzle of his life story, and the reader witnesses the beauty of the various pieces coming together throughout the course of the narrative.
The loss of three family members within such a short time span is unbearable to think of let alone write about in excruciating detail. And yet, this is exactly what Boast does and the reader is given a first-hand account of the inner workings of his mind as he processes his grief. This grief is explored in all its differing aspects, from his moments of anger, to one of the most hauntingly beautiful chapters in the memoir where he attempts through his writing to change the ending to his brother’s story.
“I’m bringing him back, I thought. Here on the page he’s alive again.”
Epilogue takes the reader on a journey along a path of grief where, nonetheless, an ever present glimmer of hope shines through the darkness. Will Boast tells his story with elegance and clarity and whether intentionally or not, he succeeds in grasping the most basic human pain experienced by one person and turning it into something universal.