Welcome to the comments and discussion of the Young Adult Cancer Book Club! We are reading A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, after an idea inspired by Siobhan Dowd. Catch up on pages 1-22, pages 23-43, pages 44-65, pages 66-85, pages 86-107, pages 108-126, pages 127-141, pages 142-158, and pages 159-172.
Let’s get started!
Commentary by Miranda:
“The Fourth Tale”
This chapter finally reveals Conor’s tale; his nightmare that he keeps having. There has been a lot of vagueness and hints as to what it might be about in the previous chapters. We know that it was a powerful nightmare about Conor physically losing his grip and subsequently losing something, or someone, that he loves.
In this nightmare, Conor feels trapped and unable to protect his mother who happens to be sitting on a cliff edge. His body is heavy and he can’t move the way that he wants to. He doesn’t have the strength that he needs to save his mother from the monster that is waiting below and just out of sight.
The violence of the nightmare shows that Conor feels that he is responsible for protecting and saving his mother. It is safe to assume that the swirling dark monster that Conor encounters in this nightmare each time is the cancer that his mother has been fighting for so long. This nightmare suffocates him and hangs over his head. He feels terrible guilt in that he can’t hold on to her hands as she is torn from the cliff’s edge by the monster of Conor’s nightmare.
“The Rest of the Fourth Tale”
Here, Conor’s nightmare continues. This is the first time that he has continued in the dream since the point his mother falls off the cliff. Normally he wakes in a terror at this point. However, he is still in the nightmare along with the monster. The monster is not satisfied with what Conor thought was his tale. However, the tale is just beginning. Conor must speak his truth. The monster tells him if that he cannot do this then he will die.
Knowing that he must continue his tale and speak his truth wraps Conor in dread, anxiety, and fear. The terror he feels begins as a flame inside him and soon he is spewing fire in an attempt to avoid speaking his truth. Screaming aloud with pain and grief, Conor finally admits the fourth tale. “I can’t stand it anymore!” Conor says. The truth that has been eating Connor alive has been that he just wants this waiting to be over. Knowing that she will be gone and waiting is more than he can continue to bear. The suffering is too much and he feels such guilt that he just wants it all to be over with.
“Life After Death”
Conor awakes on the grassy hill outside of his house after the nightmare ends. He has not died by fire like he thought he did in the dream. He is surprised because he thought his tale would deserve punishment. He thought his thoughts made him a terrible person and that he deserved “the worst”.
Conor admits to the monster that he believes that it is his fault that his mother is dying. He tells the monster that he has been feeling like this for a long time. That he has just wished that it would all be over, even if that meant losing his mother. Connor feels terrible guilt for simply wishing for the end of pain. The monster tells him that this is such a human wish and that everyone, everywhere wishes this exact same thing. He tells Conor that he must speak the truth. It won’t be easy, as Conor has learned since he was almost willing to die rather than speak it.
Conor grow suddenly very tired and the tree creates a nest for him to sleep in. He reassures Conor that he can sleep and be able to see his mother soon. The chapter closes with an unanswered question for the monster from Conor as he doses off: Why do you always come at 12:07?
Join in next Monday for comments and discussion on the next 20 pages of the book!
Thanks for joining us for pages 173-196 (“The Fourth Tale,” “The Rest of the Fourth Tale,” and “Life After Death”) of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness! Join in next Monday for the final chapters of the book!
We will talk about a few chapters each Monday until the book is done. If Monday happens to be a holiday, then the post will publish on Tuesday. Once we finish the book, we’ll use one more Monday to talk about general feelings from the book and anything else you’d like to discuss. We’ll also have a video chat book club discussion at the end! Join in, in the comments every week! Also, there will probably be spoilers so read along with us!
Excited about the young adult cancer book club? Have any suggestions for future reads? Let us know!