All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: If I Should Lose You – Natasha Lester

on March 4, 2014

If I Should Lose YouIf I Should Lose You
Natasha Lester
Fremantle Press
2012, 268p
Read from my local library

Camille is a nurse specialising in transplant medicine. She is the one that provides all of the information about donating organs to the families and loved ones of people who no longer need them. It’s a difficult job – speaking to a person about the use of someone’s organs when they’re at their most vulnerable can provoke a wide range of reactions including hostility and hysteria.

Camille is also mother to three year old Addie who has biliary atresia, a disease of the liver. Addie has been very sick for a long time and it’s getting to the crucial stage now – she requires a liver and she requires one very soon if she is to survive. Camille helps many people with the decision of organ donation but she cannot help her own daughter. Instead she must watch and wait – and pray. Pray for the unthinkable to happen to someone else’s child so that her child might live.

In her spare time between shifts at work and shifts at the hospital sitting with Addie, Camille is coordinating an art exhibition of art devoted to her mother. Camille’s mother Alix was a heart transplant surgeon who loved two men – one who worked in plaster sculpture the other a painter and both dedicated many works to her. Working on the art show is therapeutic for Camille – it allows her to open her mind to the woman she knows so little about, her own mother and it gives her a creative outlet in a time of chaos as she waits for the news that might save her daughter’s life.

About a week or two ago I watched a vlog by Australian author Natasha Lester talking about the books she’s read for the month. I love hearing people talk about the books they’ve been reading and ended up adding several of them to my TBR list. I requested them from my local library and grabbed her own book while I was at it. It interested me because several years ago at my brother’s wedding, I met a little boy with biliary atresia and through my brother and his wife, have followed his progress on facebook and through local newspaper reports as his situation got progressively worse and his need for a transplant grew. In December of 2013, he got his much needed gift and only days before reading this book, I read an article about how he has recovered from that transplant and what outcome his life has now and how he is learning to basically live as a child again. It’s a really lovely story that so far has a good outcome, an outcome I wasn’t sure would be replicated in this book.

If I had to think of two words to describe this book, it would be raw and honest. Camille works two days a week as a transplant coordinator, helping guide people through the decision making process of donating organs. And while she does this, her own daughter who is just a toddler, edges ever closer to being at the point on the list where a transplant is critical. At one stage, Addie is number 2 on the list and then becomes first. Camille knows it’s because the child that was first on the list, no longer requires the organ. The two options are they already got one or they died before one became available – and it’s most likely the latter. Camille has to hope for horrible, terrible things so that her daughter might live. She prays for an accident, a child hitting her head, etc. Something that renders their brain function dead but perfectly preserves the rest of their body and the precious organ inside that Addie so desperately needs. The scenes in this book where Addie is in the hospital after vomiting blood are heartbreaking. I have a child not much younger than Addie and I found myself attempting to imagine how it would feel if I were Camille and it were my son that was so ill in hospital. How we would coordinate shifts spending time with him (we don’t have family here to help out by taking shifts at the hospital or looking after our older son) and how I’d feel desperately waiting. Camille voices the thoughts I’m sure most parents in her situation would have, even if only during the darkest times. I found her honesty as refreshing as it was horrifying but I could understand it. She sees death every day and I think she has sort of become immune to it on some levels, it’s the way that organs are found. It isn’t until very late in the story that she seems to realise the horror that another parent will have to go through in order for her not to experience it.

The relationship between Paul and Camille is brutally honest as well. They’ve been doing the rounds of a sick child for a long time now and it’s taken a toll on their marriage, especially as they deal with Addie’s sickness in different ways and Camille sees Paul’s way as not even being affected by it. She has disdain for him at times, but there are other times when they connect in different ways. They also have a younger daughter as well who needs to be cared for and cherished and I imagine that this is a very difficult thing to balance when one child needs you so much and yet you have another as well. Rosie is younger than Addie, only 18m and even though Camille only works part time, at times it is very much a difficult load to juggle.

The story of Camille’s mother Alix and her two lovers, Camille’s father and the man she met after he died, was less interesting to me but I really did like the heart transplant information in Alix’s scenes when she was working. Given Camille’s career, it was good to see what happens to the organ after it’s harvested, the scenarios that are successful and the ones that are not. I’d have liked a little bit more about that in the story! But mostly it was Camille’s journey that captivated me here – it is a very powerful story.

8/10

Book #50 of 2014

AWWW2014

If I Should Lose You is book #18 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014

 

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2 responses to “Review: If I Should Lose You – Natasha Lester

  1. Thank you so much for your review of my book. I am so glad you responded so positively to the honesty of the book—sometimes people find it too much but I felt it wouldn’t be right to tell the story any other way. And I love the way you responded with so much empathy, imagining how it might be to be in the same shoes as Camille. I had hoped readers might take the time to do this and it’s lovely to hear that someone did. Thanks again!

    • Thanks Natasha – to be truthful myself, that honesty is what I wanted to hear because I think we’re all guilty of thinking truly terrible things at times. It’s possible to think them without truly evil motives – just simply because it’s necessary for something horrible to happen in order for something positive to happen to someone else. I didn’t find it too difficult to put myself in Camille’s shoes in some ways, although in other ways (like the depths of my mental strength in her situation) I think I only just skimmed the surface.

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