Top positive review
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An outstanding & provocative journey into a world of taboos
on 20 January 2002
This novel is not just a straightforward murder-mystery. There are several themes which distinguish it from this genre.
First, it takes the reader into the world of a nursing home, albeit of the American variety, which may be new territory for many people. As an experienced registered nurse working in a hospice, this world is fairly familiar to me; the sick, the dying, the confused, the frightened are people I meet every working day. As such, there were issues I could identify with.
A disturbing issue is that of a nurse performing fellatio on a patient. As I read it, I experienced a whole range of emotions simultaneously; shock, disgust, anger, sympathy, empathy, understanding. Then, I questioned each of these emotions. This book forced me to confront my own humanity (again) and sexuality (again). This nurse was wrong to do what she did; probably in real life would have been struck off and hit the headlines. Yet, she gave something else to Stephen (the patient) apart from his first sexual experience (a gift in itself, I guess - though I'm struggling to get past the ethics to acknowledge that). As nurses, we are told constantly to remain objective, not get involved, remain professional (which can sometimes cause a lot of conflict with being human as well). She gave him her humanity; she was a person to him as much as he was a person to her. There's so much more in this than just sex.
There's the issue of power; in all its different guises. There's religion, though, thankfully not overdone; there's spirituality, represented in a wonderfully positive light. There's a miracle; the "aide", Peggy, is transformed as a result of the events, from an immature, uncaring nightmare member of staff, to an open-minded, willing to learn and understand sort of person all nursing homes, hospitals and hospices need.
If I was a nurse tutor, I'd put this book on the essential reading list and set an essay on some of the themes.
It's fantastic and I'm so thankful to my boyfriend's mum for lending it to me. Now, I need my own copy and I'll be recommending it to my friends and colleagues.