Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Never Let Us Go

A book I read several months ago haunts me.

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.)
Never Let Me Go was made into a movie in 2010, and this is the trailer.  The late Roger Ebert gave it four stars and a big "thumbs up", but his review definitely deserves a Spoiler Alert. (Full disclosure: I have not yet seen the movie. I actually took it out of the library last week, but didn't have the time to see it. So back it went.)

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.

The end.

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?


  1. I have watched this movie and it was riveting and horrifying! I could only hope that it wasn't true! I do appreciate your reflections on it though.

    1. The story takes place in an alternate England, one in which a particular discovery was made in their England and not ours. But it was totally believable - I could see exactly this kind of thing happening if the discovery had been made in our universe. And - it still could.

  2. Alana, I didn't read any further because I don't want the spoiler. What I want to know is - is the book good? I may want to read it. I have an author page on Goodreads and we authors love reviews, so I may nag as well!

    1. The book is excellent. Ishiguro, in this story, is a master of parceling out information - just enough to make you understand what you needed to understand at that particular moment and not one bit more. I loved the character development too.

  3. Alana,
    You shouldn't shy away from doing book reviews. This description of this book is just riveting. I really want to go read it now, although it sounds like something that shouldn't be read late at night. :(

  4. It's not a horror book - just a book that is quite thought-provoking. As far as book reviews, so many on Goodreads are written in a certain style - one that can be intimidating. Maybe one day.

  5. Wow! The book sounds amazing though a bit gruesome and morbid. I agree with you about caring and caregivers it's a truth of life.

  6. I wasn't going to read more but I found it intriguing and now want to match the movie. I'm not much of a reader lately just an audble.com listener so I'll have to look this up.

    A book that really spoke to me was a self help book: Wishes Fulfilled: Mastering the Art of Manifesting by Dr. Wayne Dyer

  7. How one look at age sure change over the years. Doing home care sure have my self looking at me as an older person.

    Coffee is on

  8. Your interpretation of the book somehow subsides the fright that was created after reading that horrifying reality of the clones' world....wonderful review....


Thank you for visiting! Your comments mean a lot to me, as long as they are civil, are on topic, and do not contain profanity, advertising of any kind, links or spam. Any messages not meeting these criteria will immediately be composted, and my flowers will enjoy their contents.