Jun 19

Death Be Not Proud

Posted by Soliloquy in By disability

Johnny Gunther was only seventeen years old when he died of a brain tumor. During the months of his illness, everyone near him was unforgettably impressed by his level-headed courage, his wit and quiet friendliness, and, above all, his unfaltering patience through times of despair. This deeply moving book is a father’s memoir of a brave, intelligent, and spirited boy. … More >>

Death Be Not Proud

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5 Responses

  • John Gunther wrote DEATH BE NOT PROUD as a moving record of the last months of the life of his son, Johnny, who had died, as the result of a brain tumor, at the age of seventeen. Throughout his long and painful fight for his life, Johnny had maintained a cheerful outlook, and continued to hope that, somehow, he would go on. His father, in writing this book, made sure that Johnny did go on.

    I’m sad that some of the younger (I assume) reviewers of this book found it wanting in pathos, or whatever it was that they thought was missing. Perhaps, with the coming of maturity, they will realize what a remarkable book it is. The fact that John Gunther was able to write this book at all, probably with tears in his eyes, was an amazing feat.

    The death of a child is probably the most heart-wrenching loss that anyone can experience. I know. I, too, lost a son aged seventeen. That was 21 years ago, just three months after my son’s seventeenth birthday. The pain of that loss is still with me after all those years. Just writing a review of John Gunther’s book is almost too much. How much more difficult must it have been for Gunther to write DEATH BE NOT PROUD within two years of Johnny’s death.

    In spite of his own pain, Gunther wrote this book in hopes that other children and their parents who might find themselves in a similar situation “may derive some modicum of succor from the unflinching fortitude . . . . with which he (Johnny) rode through his ordeal to the end.”

    Before Johnny died he wrote a poem of prayer that ended as follows:

    “Accept my gratitude

    for all thy gifts

    and I shall try

    to fight the good fight. Amen”

    And this when he knew he hadn’t long to live. What a remarkable young man!

  • This might be the first book I read as a young boy which drew me to tears.

    It is relatively short, and when I reread it as an adult, I found myself awake deep into the night, turning each page in sorrow, knowing how it was going to end. I started early on a Saturday, reading until I was done early on Sunday morning.

    You know how it will end too. The title cheats us from wondering if Johnny will make it, but at the same time, there is a peace. Johnny was ready, and teaches us a little bit about being ready for life’s ultimate end.

    The title, from a famous John Donne poem, is intriguing, as Donne saw no dignity in death, but that there was dignity in how we died. It refers to a more famous passage by St. Paul… “Oh Death, where is your sting?” talking about how Death has no real power over the faithful. Johnny was a faithful, powerful young man. He prayed, like another biblical person, for his unbelief, as he humbly struggles with trying to believe in God in the middle of his fight for life.

    John Gunther, the father, previously best-known for his travel books, has made a mark on literature which will never be erased.

    Read this honest, quietly spiritual, compelling story. You’ll be emotionally drained, but better off for it.

    I fully recommend this book.

    Anthony Trendl

    editor, HungarianBookstore.com

  • This is one of the best books that I have ever read. It focuses on one teenage boy who suddenly develops a cancer causing brain tumor and his will to beat the odds and survive to make it to college. This book shows the will to win against any odds. It tells of the human sprit and a struggle of a young boy to survive. This book is beautifully written by the father of the teenage boy as he undergoes three surgeries and many treatments. It also shows the parents’ desperate search to save their son from his proclaimed fate. They try almost anything for their son. It is remarkable how their son, throughout the entire book, is fighting. There is an ongoing struggle going on inside of him, to fulfill his dreams and make it into Harvard. Although he missed two years of high school, he gets tutors to help him make up his missed work. He is tutored even through the toughest times of his illness: surgeries, pain and diet restrictions. This boy does not give up whatever it comes to. This memoir is one that I recommend very much. It shows the courage that this boy had and really pulls at your heartstrings.

  • Adrienne Guidry Mrs. Smith American Lit/6th 14 May 2001

    Amazon Book Review

    In John Gunther’s Death Be Not Proud he gives the detailed fathers point of view of his sons struggle to live. His son Johnny is diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of sixteen and has a very small chance of living to see his next birthday. While Gunther tries to be objective throughout the book his pain shows through quite often as he depicts the horror and pain that his son had to endure. Gunther mainly centers around his son, and his strong will to live and his study of everything. His son loves to learn he was constantly, even when very ill diligently working on his schoolwork. He always wanted to know more, and then the more he knew he only wanted to know more. The book is a memoir of his trials during his son’s illness. While he and his wife try to be strong for their son, Gunther is adamant in stating that his wife was the glue that held the family together. He constantly gives her more credit than anyone in making Johnny’s last months peaceful and full of life. The shear audacity that is shown by Johnny when he is faced by death is amazing to me. I really consider the strength shown by this family to make this book worth reading. Just to see the way this family came together and loved one another in the worst of time is amazing to me. I found it very comforting to know that even though horrible things do happen someone was strong enough to let the rest of the world know that life goes on. The world does not end and the person who is ill can only go to a better place. I think that throughout the book Gunther foreshadows his son’s death with the comments he makes. He may not conceal it like some other authors but the message still gets sent loud and clear. You are able to understand that even though you know Johnny will die he will have better days, sooner or later. The only thing that I found disappointing was that even though I knew Johnny would die somewhere in the back of my mind I hoped he would live. Even though I knew he was going to die, it is human nature to wish that someone would live and I die. I am the one that will always wish for a different outcome than the one I know is going to happen and this time is no different. I sincerely thought that maybe they would find some cure for him and for all of the others that suffer from his disease but I was wrong. The book left me feeling alone and with no hope, but then I remembered the strength and perseverance of Frances and it made everything all right. I made me feel better about myself and the world at large that has to suffer with this everyday. Although I was left empty handed so to speak. I felt as though the strength and the courage of John and Frances Gunther were the strength and courage every family would receive while going through such a tough time. The same strength my family and I felt when my father was diagnosed with cancer. You never know where it comes from but miraculously it is there, never fading. Well now you all know how I feel about this book and I wish you all would do the same. I am interested to know how you feel about it and how you feel about the whole subject of brain tumors. Once again I want to salute the parents of Johnny Gunther who through a terrible ordeal remembered every detail and were able to share that with their readers.

  • Don’t let this title fool you, Death Be Not Proud, A Memoir is not the story of death but the story for a fight for life. This true story is sad but one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. It is sad in the sense that John Gunther Jr. is diagnosed with a maligant brain tumor at sixteen years old. He has everything to live for. Johnny is a bright high school student, at Deerfield, and plans to attend Harvard University. His father writes a true account of his son’s fifthteen month struggle with cancer. He had operations to remove the tumor but they were unsuccessful. His father researched treatments to find a cure. Johnny tries a chemical mustard treatment, X-ray treatment, and a special diet but the cancer is still not cured. Johnny has an inner spirit that can not be crushed by cancer. He is determined to keep studying and remain in contact with his friends. He never complained about his treatments or setbacks when the tumor begin to grow again. He sets an example of courage for his parents and those around him. Johnny’s death does end the book but his spirit and fight for life are the real story. The story made me think about the life I have, and how I should appreciate the chance to make the most of it.



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