Book reviews: The Easy Way out by Steven Amsterdam & The Trophy Child by Paula Daly.

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The Easy Way Out by Steven Amsterdam, ISBN 9781786480835, Published on 3rd Nov 2016.

Evan is a nurse with a difference; he assists suicides. It is a legal position, but neither his friends nor family know the extent of his day job and as the number of assists increase, as do Evan’s personal problems, in particular the progressiveness of his mother’s Parkinson’s, and Evan is left questioning all that he knows about life and indeed death.

This is a book which was always going to be hard to read but, considering that The Right to Die debate is always raw, I never really expected it to be an easy read. I also imagine that it wasn’t the easiest of subjects to write so intricately about.

Nevertheless, I applaud Amsterdam for his attempted sensitivity in this book, but where I feel he deserves the most credit is in his realism regarding the whole taboo subject. It has been mentioned by a number of reviewers that Evan’s manner during the assisting of his patients was fumbled and that this made him inconsiderate when reading. However, I feel that this exact trait of Evan’s was most real and for me almost humbling. After all, where is the manual for how to behave when assisting in the end of life? How on earth would any of us know or understand the position of an assister because this isn’t a position in which you can practice beforehand; ultimately they are ending life. I don’t think any of us could honestly say how we would cope in this situation – Evan is in fact merely human.

I cried at Evan’s first assist because of the way it was handled with such truth and realism, but mainly because it is such a difficult concept to witness. Just because I personally believe we should all have the right to decide at this point, doesn’t mean that it makes it any easier for me to read about the actual process. In fact, for a second or two I was right there with the relatives who fought to change the decision at the last minute, despite knowing that they all needed to be respectful of their loved one’s decision – just because it’s the only resolution, doesn’t make it any easier to contend with.

This isn’t a light-hearted read and Evan’s view of the world, obviously dark considering his job title and consequent personal problems, makes for a tough read. However, if you can get past this and don’t mind being taken out of your comfort zone, then this is a book which will encourage you to be grateful for everything that you have.

 

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The Trophy Child by Paula Daly, ISBN: 9780802125941, Published on 7th March 2017.

Karen Bloom demands perfection from her ten-year-old daughter, Bronte. The fact that Karen also has a teenage son and step-daughter means little; Bronte is her investment and she will stop at nothing to get her to the top of everything, even if that means alienating all of those around her in the process. The problem is, Bronte is exhausted both mentally and physically and longs to live her life like all other girls her age. But Karen doesn’t know when to stop, and neither does she want to. Perhaps its time for a wake-up call…

The Trophy Child is a mesmerising thriller with so much going on, all derived from just that one unhappy family unit. I was surprised when Karen’s relentless pushing of Bronte reached a climax so early into the story, but little did I realise that there was a lot worse to come. Of all the characters, it was actually Verity who I found to be the sincerest out of the lot of them, and that’s saying something considering her previous experience with her Step-Mum Karen!

A wonderful read, with a Tiger-Mum element which isn’t hard to imagine or indeed place in reality. The only reservation I had was the demise of Karen who I felt, although was difficult to tolerate in her quest for perfection, didn’t quite deserve the lack of respect which she received at the end of the book and it really did make me question the lack of professionalism from DS Aspinall, who had become involved with the family from very early on! That said, I could possibly see another story arising from that avenue!

 

Both books were received for review from the wonderful people at NetGalley.

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