In A.M. Holmes’s Do Not Disturb, a helpless husband is tortured by his damaged, domineering wife after she learns she has cancer. I am still unsure exactly how I feel about this story, mostly because I do not feel that the irony in the end fully justifies the rest of the story. Nonetheless, Holmes does a good job presenting to the reader a complex relationship between two very different people. His characters are mostly realistic; they are definitely deep and complicated.
Although I got the feeling that the reader is supposed to consider the husband a weakling, I found myself sympathizing with his efforts to rectify his marriage. It is evident that he genuinely cares about his wife; he refuses to cheat on her when openly invited, and he seems to be the only one who actually does anything for her while she is in the hospital. If anything, I felt that the husband was merely an idiot for not seeing through his wife’s cold stoicism.
I also got the feeling that the reader is meant to feel at least some sympathy for the wife. However, I was unable to bring myself to feel sorry for her at any point in the story. The fact that her cancer diagnosis only serves to make her even more of a bitch really reveals her true character. On page 69, she says, “I need to be married to someone who is like a potted plant, someone who needs nothing.” The husband does not realize how serious she is until the story’s end, when he decides to sever his emotional chains and leave her in Paris. It is then that he is struck with paralysis and is ironically physically unable to leave. As the reader, I see the aspect of tragedy, but somehow, it felt cheap to me. The husband had so many chances to leave her before that the ending seemed more like a stab in the back than a functional culmination. Overall, however, although I don’t agree with every aspect of the story’s realism, I do believe that it was well told and provided deep perspectives on emotional attachment.