The End of the Alphabet

The End of the Alphabet

eBook - 2007
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Ambrose Zephyr and his wife Zappora Ashkenazi ("Zipper") have achieved a happy and balanced life together. She is the yin to his yang. He is the only man she has loved without adjustment. The two live contentedly in a narrow London terrace full of books.

That contentment is thrown into turmoil on or about Ambrose's fiftieth birthday, when they receive the news that he has contracted a mysterious illness that will most certainly lead to his death within the month. In panicked delirium, from beneath their bed Ambrose withdraws an oxblood suitcase containing the ephemera of his long-suppressed life's ambition: to travel the world in a pilgrimage through the alphabet, from Amsterdam to Zanzibar.

Scuttling the responsibilities of their respectably successful careers, the two set off on an urgent voyage through real and imagined geographies of place, of history, of art, and of love.

Zipper is continually frustrated by Ambrose's reticence, but loves him beyond all measure. And Ambrose well appreciates his miraculous good fortune in having Zipper by his side, drawing out the best in him. Zipper does not completely understand Ambrose's compulsion to pursue his childhood dream, but her commitment to him is absolute and so she, too, is compelled to make this journey.

In Amsterdam, they revisit past debates on beauty and art. In Berlin, they weigh the burdens of history. In the glow of the Chartres windows, they explore the stations of life. In Deauville, they fondly recall their youthful love. At "E," Ambrose adjusts his long-drafted itinerary, crossing out Elba and replacing it with the Eiffel Tower of Zipper's beloved Paris, the city of their first predestined encounter. While resting in Florence beside the youthfully vital David, they meet a chivalrous old man who shares his insight into enduring romance. It is in Giza that Ambrose begins to falter as he climbs a pyramid, and they miss Haifa thanks to a sandstorm. In Istanbul, they realize that Ambrose can go no further and they must return to their London terrace.

But their voyage is not over. The two continue their odyssey, no longer via plane and rail, but now through the power of shared desire and love. The wise words of a hallucinatory camel in Ambrose's fevered dream ring out to them with equanimity: "Why, you ask? There is no why, Master Zephyr. Life goes on. Death goes on. Love goes on. It is all as simple as that."

In the tradition of romantic legend and fable, The End of the Alphabet is a lovingly rendered, richly nuanced treatise on the nature of true and enduring love. The story of Ambrose and Zappora is a precious gift, one that illuminates a pathway to the return of balance and joy after unthinkable loss.

From the Hardcover edition.
Publisher: New York : Doubleday, c2007.
ISBN: 9780307371942
Characteristics: 1 online resource
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc

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From Library Staff

JaclynA Apr 04, 2014

A short story about an man named Ambrose Zephyr who is obsessed with the alphabet. When he finds out he has one month to live he vows to go and see all the places he has never been A-Z. This book is sad, and really about true love.

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Apr 09, 2015

Quick, quirky read. For the subject matter, it's actually quite light and uplifting.

WVMLStaffPicks Feb 01, 2015

Ambrose Zephyr has been given one month to live. He and his wife Zipper head off to all the places he has longed to see or see again. He starts his list with A and intends to end at Z. It is a charming, whimsical story of love, marriage and everyday life.

JaclynA Apr 04, 2014

A short story about an man named Ambrose Zephyr who is obsessed with the alphabet. When he finds out he has one month to live he vows to go and see all the places he has never been A-Z. This book is sad, and really about true love.

Aug 17, 2013

A delightful yet sad book. It struck home with the characters bring slightly out of sink with one another. A fun idea, to see places according to the alphabet...just don't wait until you are dieting to do it!

ser_library Feb 01, 2013

very light, a sad subject but not sentimental
i read thewhole book on the bus while doing chores round town in one afternoon

Dec 02, 2012

wonderful little story about what one would do with only one month left in their life.....easy read, some lovely moments...i liked it

Wolfespearl Aug 25, 2012

Winner of the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Book, this lovely little fable is a rare and exquisite treasure.

"On or about his fiftieth birthday, Ambrose Zephyr failed his annual medical exam. An illness of inexplicable origin with neither known nor foreseeable cure was discovered. It would kill him within the month. Give or take a day." (p.5)

And so he and his beloved wife take a journey, an A to Z tour of places they have loved or longed to see. Their adventure leads them to explore a life and a marriage, and the discoveries are luminous. With wit, joy and insights that are profoundly moving we share their final love song. It's refrain will haunt you long afterwards.

May 25, 2012

This little book was just lovely. The story follows a husband and wife during the husband's last month of life. We never know the illness, but it isn't important. The love of the couple for each other, the understanding, the tenderness is what's important. A sort of bucket list book but not in any crass, hedonistic way. I was sad that this was such a short book - I read it in about four hours - but realize that it would not have had the same impact had it been longer with more prose.

Apr 03, 2012

The cover reads: an alphabet of the language of lovers, a beautiful fable of art and mortality; elegant, wise and humane. This small little book fits in the palm of your hand like a friend and is a delight. It is the journey of a man and his wife during the last month of his life. An emotional and physcial journey.

Jan 15, 2012

Began Sat. Jan 14-12. Liking it so far....looks like this might be a quick 2 day read.
Finished Mon Jan 16. A nice little book.

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nellie Sep 28, 2007

nellie thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over


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nellie Sep 28, 2007

Ambrose Zephyr finds he has only a month to live so plans to visit 26 locations from A to Z.


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