Night Watch


It may be hard to imagine that a book set in a cancer hospital could be heart-warming and life-enhancing—not at all depressing—but the extraordinary insights and the humane understanding that Barbara Shoup comes equipped with make this novel a joy to read.

Grace works in petit point, white on white, while Della crochets fuchsia purses trimmed with lime-green rosettes. Both are in a hospital waiting room, their husbands in beds upstairs. They are waiting for either life or death. But this too is a process of life, intense life. Della, whose years have not included many rules or possessions, simply lets life and love flow through her. Grace, with her greater sophistication, has a more tangled set of problems. Before the book ends, all four of these lives—and several others—have intertwined, and the crisis of illness has changed them all.

A gentle, wise view of the world moves this short, taut book along to its satisfying ending. It concentrates on experiences we all have: illness, love, the mysteries of death. It illuminates them, and so leaves us not sad, but at peace.