Contemplating mortality is as natural as breathing, I suppose, since we were all blessed with the knowledge that, one day, each of us will draw that final breath and bid adieu the land of the living. In his novella Death’s Doorstep, author Stephen H. Provost explores the inevitable end of existence through the eyes of two individuals, a husband and wife, who in many ways could be any of us. They have their own personalities, their own lives, but there is virtually no separation between the first-person narrator and the reader. The story feels so close, so intimate, we as readers experience the emotions, the events, and the conflicts, in what feels like real time. Gut-wrenchingly so.
Allen, the protagonist, has been fortunate enough to find requited love with an enigmatic woman named Molly. We get just enough of the characters’ deepest feelings and beliefs to feel close and comfortable with them before the events that make this story a work of dark, speculative fiction set in. The character interactions are poignant, involving situations to which I personally relate. There were passages that I had to force myself to keep reading because the nerves they touched are still somewhat sensitive.
That, to me, simply proves that Provost has done what he set out to do. Philosophically, the story poses numerous questions and suggests a few answers. Can having hope destroy everything you hold dear? When a person loses so much of who he or she is—by way of Alzheimers, for example—is the essence of that person lost, or has it shifted somewhere else? Is the essence—the soul—of a human being mere illusion?
Death’s Doorstep is a quick but powerful reading experience. Provost’s easy narrative voice and generally agreeable wit convey love, tragedy, horror, and hope in compelling fashion.