Edel Cush’s debut novel, set in Florida, tackles a taboo subject in a brave and dramatic fashion. Told from the points of view of both mother and daughter, I found my own emotions challenged as I followed their journey over one particular day – the day Lily decided to die.
Unaware of the role she is to play, Olive has been asked to drive her mother to the clinic. We learn early on that both mother and daughter are alike: independent, strong-willed and perhaps a little self-obsessed. Opposing views lead to inevitable conflict between them and the novel hurtles forward to its harrowing end with plenty of twists along the way.
Like many people, I followed Marie Fleming’s story as she took on the Irish courts to fight for her right to take her own life, as she battled with the debilitating Motor Neurone Disease. Edel was moved by her plight and, inspired by her fight, used euthanasia as the main theme for her story.
The opening pages, with the use of a stream of consciousness technique, are somewhat confusing at first and need a second read, but all becomes clear at the end, when the threads are pulled together and questions answered. The circular narrative works well here.
As well as Lily and Olive, there is an array of minor characters, who impinge on the plot. Unfortunately, some are of a type that we can all recognise too well. The ambitious and repulsive Frank is far more dangerous than he first appears and Nurse Jean, one of his acolytes, is just as devious. These characters are very well drawn and come to life on the page through clever use of dialogue. The dramatic style of the writing is one of the strengths of the novel. It would be easy to see it converted into a play or a film.
This is a novel that will give you plenty to talk about and no doubt will give rise to a diversity of opinions because of its subject matter. I know which side I am on. Let’s get the debate started. Unlike many of the book’s characters, I am willing to listen to the opinions of others, but like them, I am probably unlikely to change my mind.