Dolce Agonia is a sometimes sad yet openly comic work, a moral and social reflection on our times compressed into a few hours of a snowy Thanksgiving night in a small college town in New England. Sean Farrell, the poet “with a gift for instilling discomfort,” is the host for this unforgettable evening: among his dozen guests are poets and writers and professors, former lovers, an artist-turned-housepainter, a bread maker, a secretary, and a young woman with an infant and a haunting past. Not all of them know one another when the evening begins, but, as this remarkable novel unfolds, the reader will come to know each of them intimately—to move inside their skins and to live in their thoughts, to share in their past sufferings and to know their hopes; even to catch a glimpse, through the eyes of their “creator,” into their futures, to know their fates.
It is Nancy Huston’s gift and triumph that she can move so freely and seamlessly from tragedy to comedy. And what comedy she give us: her insights into the ego of the ageing male are as funny as they are uncanny; even the death of a beloved characters is rendered through such absurd twists that laughter overwhelms sadness. With Dolce Agonia, Huston has written an eloquent exploration of mortality that is a celebration of life. At the core of this novel is a universal plea that we never let go of our friends, never lose their stories.