Call us heretical, but we’ve always said that our book discussions are far more interesting than the books we read. While discussing Unless by Carol Shields, a forty year old, long suppressed memory of mine surfaced… a classmate of mine in Hunter College had self immolated in front of the United Nations as a protest against the Viet Nam war. Apparently this memory was so far buried that I could not even remember his name. I “Googled” the event which provided his name…. Roger LaPorte. Feeling frustrated, I asked Chris Garland for help. He managed to retrieve a New York Times article and the name of a person who worked at the Catholic Worker along with Roger all those years ago. After contacting the Catholic Worker, I was sent original newspapers which dealt with the subject of his suicide and its moral implications. From there I was connected with a woman who worked alongside him when he fed the homeless and the indigent; she is hoping to publish a book about Roger. The gentle young man in my French class became a reality and I have been allowed to both mourn him and celebrate his brief life.
Although Unless did not deal with the subject of suicide, it did deal with the theme of loss; perhaps this is what struck that chord in me.