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A Witness To Life [Paperback]

Terence M. Green
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Paperback, Sept. 2 2000 --  
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Book Description

Sept. 2 2000 Ashland
Green returns to the history of his own family with the prequel to his critically acclaimed Shadow of Ashland. This is the story of Martin Radey, Greens grandfather. Radey, the child of Irish immigrant parents in late nineteenth-century Canada, lived most of his life in Toronto, for years a single parent after the death of his young wife. But this is his story beginning at the moment of his death, drifting backward and starting again from his early life, a search for meaning in a welter of change and occasional tragedy.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Toronto in the first half of the century is feelingly evoked in Green's understated prequel to his well-received Shadow of Ashland, a novel based on his family history. A minor character in the previous book, the protagonist and narrator here (inspired by the author's grandfather) is Martin John Radey, an Irish-Catholic clerk who has been dead for 34 years. In spirit form, Martin attends the deathbed of his daughter, Margaret, in 1984, and moves back in heartfelt memory to recall the meager fortunes of his own life. Martin spends his adolescence exploring Toronto's bars with his friend Jock, spending money on booze, cigars and girls. Together they witness the 1904 conflagration that ravages Toronto's downtown. Then Martin meets Maggie Curtis, who is older and more worldly than his previous girlfriends; she reads Dreiser and supports women's suffrage. Their marriage produces two children and a silent dissatisfaction in Maggie. When she dies early on, Martin is a disastrous caretaker for their children, Margaret and Jack, who grow up mostly on their own. Here the novel goes soft?Martin's neglect is presented as excusable befuddlement, but the reader will surely ask whether Martin's responsibility can so easily be dismissed. After Martin remarries, to a woman who dislikes his son, Jack heads for the U.S. to find work and disappears from his family's eyes. After WWII, Martin enters the Gethsemeni Trappist monastery as an offering to Jack's disappearance, and meets Thomas Merton. Green's prose is sure and smooth, and the story is poignant. In the end, however, the "witness to life" is a solitary, sorrowful, haunted man who merely folded under the pressure of fatherhood and dies as he lives, with regrets. Agent, Shawna McCarthy.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Green based this profoundly moving story of one man's life and afterlife on that of his Irish Catholic grandfather, and in doing so has paid him a great tribute. The tale begins with Martin Radey witnessing his first daughter's death from beyond the grave, then cycles back to Radey's own demise, which is followed by a postmortem journey through time and space to the small Canadian town of Elora, where he lived peacefully until age eight. From Elora, Radey progresses to Toronto, where he relives the stages of his life: the excitement of sex, the satisfaction of love, the melancholy of loneliness, the desperation of unemployment, and the anguish of loved ones' deaths. Green's novel is well paced and beautifully written, and Martin is so real that readers may wonder whether their own stern and stoic grandfather knew him. Green makes Martin's emotions so vivid they become his readers' emotions, and readers will feel that their spirit has, like Radey's, found something precious they didn't even know they were looking for. Deborah Rysso --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A GEM of a book!!!! July 28 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
My estimation of Amazon.ca books has just risen by 100% with the inclusion of this great Canadian book on its list of offerings! (Sorry, I know too many exclamation marks isn't good writing but...I'm THAT excited to find this book here!!!). Although this is not a newly published novel it deserves to be widely read and to be added to literature lists in highschools and universities for its diamond-brilliant craftsmanship.
Green has a style like no one else and can say more with 3 words that most people can in 100 pages. Although known most famously in the Sci-Fi realm, Terrence M. Green's writing in the trilogy set that completes (or perhaps STARTS) with St. Patrick's Bed is masterful. Not only are his characters compelling and finely drawn, the plots themselves are wonderfully thought out and set down.

All I can say to Mr. Green is 'Thank you and ....MORE PLEASE' and to all the readers out there - do yourself a favour and READ THIS BOOK.....and when you do let's just hope Amazon also will have 'St. Patrick's Bed' and "Shadow of Ashland" on offer as I proudly do on my bookshelf to recommend to all my friends and to be read over and over. You're going to want to know all about the characters populating each book. And, if you have any aspirations of ever being a writer, now is the time to.....GO GREEN!!!!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gourmet feast for the famished reader. June 1 1999
By Gayla Collins - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Terrance M. Green has delivered a crisp, profound, articulate and genuine look at life's journey. Through Martin Radey we learn of youthful mistakes, missed opportunities, and painful choices that haunt unto death, but are buoyed by the promise of redemption and second chances. Upon his death, he surveys his life and the life of his family, and the look is insightful, sometimes painful, always real and recognizable. Mr. Green has a writing style that flows in it's unique cadence, drawing his reader in at first sentence. Though short in page, his book is long in quality, style and substance. It must be read morsel by morsel and not devoured, as the reader's appetite is appeased by succulent descriptions and zestful words. Dessert is the truths realized in the story. In short, " A Witness to Life" is a gourmet feast. Bon Appetite!!
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative, and beautifully written April 30 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
It's hard when a book is set in the town you grew up in to know whether you are reacting to the book on its own merits or simply because all the familiar places have a special resonance for you. But I think anyone would enjoy this terrific book, even if they've never been to Toronto. Greene's characters will keep you glued to the page.
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a fine story.. March 6 2000
By Jack in Oswego - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is one of those rare books you're really glad you bought because it's worth reading twice. Buy this book! Definately one of the best I've read in a long time. This is what great storytelling is all about.
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