I don't make it a habit to write book reviews. In fact, Goodread's nagging me to write reviews has caused me to (almost) abandon the site. But today, I want to blog about a book that will never let me go.
This book is a book some call science fiction, and some dystopian. It was written by a mainstream author, Kazuo Ishiguro. It's called Never Let Me Go. (You may know Ishiguro better for another book, The Remains of the Day.)
The plot: students at a mysterious English boarding school in an "alternate" England find out the reason why they are so special. (And now, the spoiler alert. If you want to read this book and haven't, read no further.) If you are still with me:
They are clones, created for the sole purpose of being organ donors. They won't live that long into adulthood, as they will be harvested for their organs and eventually "complete", or suffer brain death.
But before they become donors, the young adult clones must become carers - nurses for the clones older than them, clones who are already in the organ donor system. The system is this: First you are a carer. Then you receive your letter (from the government?) and must report to become a donor. You live in a donation center for the rest of your life.
The donor doesn't die right away, depending on the organ taken. Some die after the first donation. Some die after the second. More die after the third.
But none of them survive the fourth donation. No later than the fourth donation, they complete. And whether that is really the end of their suffering, or if there is some consciousness that remains during what comes after, none of the clones know.
Meanwhile, the carer clones see the entire process close up- the pain the donation surgeries cause, the crippling, the mental and physical agony. They see the suffering of their patients as they recover from each donation surgery. The carers must care for the donors until they themselves are called to end their careers as carers and begin donating. Sooner or later every clone is called to donate. There is no escape - but is there a way to delay the inevitable?
There is a rumor among the clones that you can be "deferred" (have your donation time deferred) if you fall really, and truly, in love. But is it true, or only a terrible myth?
The book is partially about three clones who grow up together at the mysterious boarding school, and become friends, finally seeking out one of their former teachers to find out if the rumor of deferral is really true. (I won't reveal that end, sorry.)
And the most horrifying part is: no one fights the system. No one tries to escape. The clones suffer, but they show up for their donations in the end. And then they donate, and they finally complete.
I am in my early 60's and a caregiver for an inlaw in her mid 80's. And all through this book, I kept thinking about the parallels between carers and caregivers.
Carers. and Caregivers, in our world, go hand in hand. Caregivers first watch as their parents and in laws age and eventually die at the end. We know that one day, it will be our turn, as we are cared for in turn.
We have no choice. We must age. We eventually lose our health. We become frail, no matter how much we exercise, or eat right, or take care of ourselves.
And then we complete. Some in our 70's, some in our 80's, some in our 90's, and the rest of us in our 100's. Every one of us. No exceptions.
Our coping with this fact is a function of religion, or spirituality, or philosophy. But, whatever your beliefs, we can not escape. There is no deferral.
I found this a book that speaks to me. It speaks to me again, and again.
I love books like that.
Do you have a book that has spoken to you in a special way?