Top critical review
Light at the end of the tunnel
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 26 November 2016
Steven Amsterdam likes to write fiction that reflects our own opinions on ourself and gives us pause for thought.
Right now, assisted suicide is being talked about in all the coffee shops at the Paris end of Collins Street (Melbourne) and the chattering classes tend to be in favour.
So, in The Easy Way Out, we meet Evan, a nurse in an assisted dying unit in an unspecified hospital. Assisted suicide has been permitted on a trial basis provided various legal safeguards are in place and the process follows a closely worded script. There are protocols and reports, any breach is a serious matter that will come under external scrutiny. And this is a pretty dismal process for those choosing to end their lives and their families. Any warmth and love has been sucked out of the process by bureaucrats. Unsurprisingly, some people still turn to their families and underground "helpers" for those final stages.
We watch Evan struggle with the ethics of the process, with each subsequent case being slightly harder for Evan to justify in his own mind. Every time Evan thinks he knows his own limits, a new case comes along to test that boundary.
The hospital is anonymous and but for a single reference to an oval, it need not even be in Australia. Evan is gay and involved in a threesome relationship - presumably so the reader engages with the issues rather than identifying with Evan or the location (although maybe Steven Amsterdam is specifically pitching his novel at the hitherto untapped gay threesome market).
This works well in short novels. But The Easy Way Out is not that short and too much engagement with moral dilemmas can feel a bit like being beaten over the head with an ethics textbook. The writing is clear and concise, but it leans more towards logic than emotion, and as noted, the characterisation is (probably intentionally) distancing.
I can see how some people may read this and revise their opinions. In my case, however, it simply reaffirmed them.