Saturday, 5 March 2011

The Kindest Thing by Cath Staincliffe

What would you do if your husband asked you to help him kill himself? Cath Staincliffe provides a heart-rending account of one woman's journey through this terrible dilemma.

The book is tightly written. There is clever use of flashback: taking the reader through the highs and lows of Deborah Shelley and Neil Draper's life together. We reflect with Deborah, while she awaits trial in Styal Prison, on Neil's diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease, his fast demise, and how the illness cruelly takes away the passion, power and essence of the man she loves unequivocally.

We learn about their children, Adam and Sophie, their characters and their past. And how they both deal very differently with the pain of losing their father. All the details of their lives ring true. There is no hype. And for anyone who has done jury service, the court scenes will no doubt bring back memories.

There is a searing intensity to the writing. You feel her pain as a mother as she watches - helpless - as her children's lives are torn apart. There is a moving honesty and lack of artifice in her narration as she recounts the build up to the day Neil died.

I wasn't initially convinced of the need for the sex scenes. But on balance, they show - in a realistic way - that this was a passionate relationship with a closeness many would envy. Which makes the loss felt even keener.

The Kindest Thing is a gripping portrayal - told without prejudice - of a family coping with assisted suicide. I highly recommend it.

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