And...I am giving a book talk to a new book club next Tuesday, and they didn't seem too terribly interested in historical fiction. Cue my slight panic as I perused my lists of books I've read. Not too much contemporary fiction. This remedies a few things all in one shot: contemporary fiction, a controversial subject, and something I usually wouldn't read.
Matt and Elle are in their mid-30's and loving life. Matt is a neurosurgeon, and Elle is a professor/ex NASA expert. Oh, and she also flew into space on a space shuttle to repair the Hubble telescope. They have a long and complex relationship, full of intense love, unbearable pain, and a never ending admiration for each other. They've lived next door to each other as kids, and the bond stayed firm even through heart break, distance, and other relationships.
But they want children, and Elle has an auto-immune disease that keeps her miscarrying her babies. She wants to try again, and Matt is very reluctant.
And then the unthinkable happens. Elle falls, hits her head, and suffers severe and irreversible brain damage. She is brain dead. As Matt prepares to shut off her life support system, it's discovered through routine tests that Elle is 8 weeks pregnant. Now Matt wants the baby, and is willing to keep Elle alive long enough to give the baby a chance to survive.
But other family members do not want this, and point to Elle's traumatic experience seeing her mother die an agonizing death from breast cancer. She has told people time and again, and even left the legal paperwork, that she does not want to be kept alive if something happens to her. This begins the legal wrangling, the overwhelming grief, the anger, and the stress of two families, a husband, and a lawyer to do what is right for Elle and for the baby.
I'm not giving anything away when I tell you that much. It's on the back of the book, and it happens in the first 20 pages of the novel. It moves quickly, then takes a day at a time, each chapter, to tell you the story of Matt's fight. It also dips back into Matt and Elle's past, and what has happened to them since they were teens, and first fell in love. Let's just say a heck of a lot of things happened to shape them both into the people they become.
This is certainly one of those books that will cause a great deal of discussion between those who read it--perfect, really, for a book club. It's the kind of book that immediately makes you give a gut reaction to what you would do in this situation. And it makes you think about life, death, love, and grief. And how politics and the law can try and wipe that all away, and make something very human and emotional a case and a catalyst for opposite sides to argue over people they don't know at all.
I'm glad I read it. It's sad, so sad. But definitely worth reading.
Rating: 8/10 for a controversial topic that shows both sides, with a very well drawn husband--Matt. Elle comes alive beautifully through flashbacks, letters, and journals.
Available in paperback and as a e-book.