The Fate of Katherine Carr

I just finished reading Thomas H. Cook’s The Fate of Katherine Carr. This was one of those books that stick with you. The kind where you are still thinking about the book hours after you’ve put it down.

I’ve been thinking about how to explain this book–the plot is so complicated. It’s about a man who has had a tragedy in his life and he’s explaining his story to another man. BUT there’s another tragedy in the book and the man, a journalist, becomes interested in this event. He then pulls in a 12 year old girl, and the two of them explore the event, much of which is relayed to them by yet another man (who is telling a story). So there are stories within stories within stories within stories. And somehow, Cook holds all this together. Just seeing how he’s done that makes this worth reading.

And ultimately this book is about the search for hope and our need to have hope, regardless of the events dealt us in life. Fate, as the title suggests, is one of the book’s themes–whether we are bound by fate or if we can take hold of our life and make of it what we will. Ultimately, Katherine Carr does just that but in ways that are surprising.

When I think of taking hold of one’s own life, I think of my grandmother. She was always an independent woman and if alive, would have been 103 this year. When I was fourteen and she was in her 70s, she got sick. Really sick and spent 6 weeks in ICU. When she finally came out of the hospital, she faced months of rehab to try to regain the use of her arms and legs.

She asked to spend a weekend at home between the hospital and rehab. I think she had already decided what she would do when she got home. In a brief moment of solitude, when both her husband and other caretakers were out, she got a gun and shot herself.

So many people couldn’t understand why she had done this. Some blamed the illness, arguing that she was “out of her mind” from the high fevers. But now that I am an adult, I think she was totally cognizant of what she was doing. She was making that ultimate choice to control her own destiny–to take control of her life and make decisions for herself. She didn’t believe in fate. She believed in free will, regardless of what life brought.

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