by John Brinling
REVIEWED BY: Books4Tomorrow
A portrait of the harrowing despair and remarkable courage of a middle-class family tormented beyond endurance by a mindless act of violence.
Chris Carter, at 24, a medical student, had it all. Good looks, intelligence, a winning personality, a loving family. His girlfriend, Louise, was his dream girl, and he had everything ahead of him, everything to live for....until he was mugged after walking Louise home from his sister’s birthday party—and his world and the world of all those who knew him was changed forever.
I’m not quite sure what I expected from this book, but I got much more than I anticipated. The closer I got to the final chapter, the more I wanted the story not to end, because I got so wrapped up in the lives of the many different characters, their world became very real to me. This is one of those stories which takes the reader through every emotion conceivable. It even had me questioning some of my own views and opinions – not only on the matter of euthanasia, but also other topics that are touched on throughout the book, such as abortion, suicide, and extra-marital affairs, to name a few. One thing is certain though: other than “The Help” by author Kathryn Stockett, I’ve never before read a book that moved me as deeply as this one did.
I admire the way in which the author skillfully uses emotion and logic to emphatically tackle the controversial topic of euthanasia, and how deftly he provides insight into both sides of the argument for and against mercy death. The reader gets the perspective of the family, the Catholic Church, and the medical profession; each with conflicting views on a widely debated subject that not only is of consequence to the victim, but also to loved ones.
In no way did the author favor one view over the other and I was often left questioning my own views on this issue and feeling undecided as to what I would do if I was in the same situation and had to make such impossible decisions. Would I want to “live” in a vegetative comatose state for as long as my body held out, or would I want – for their sake and mine – my loved ones to pull the plug on the machine keeping me alive? If it is someone I love, would I let him “live” or would I be showing kindness by pushing the respirator’s “off” button? The answer seems simple, doesn’t it? But after reading this book and seeing it through the eyes of a mother, father, sister, girlfriend and other extended family members, doctors who’ve sworn an oath to let live, and a Church unfaltering in its dogma, the answer no longer seems so straightforward.
I applaud the author for the manner in which he brought both main and secondary characters to life by giving each their own back-story and having all of them facing unbridgeable obstacles, as well as their own personal demons. The families portrayed in this novel are dysfunctional in every sense of the word. I easily identified with their fears and daily struggles, and once I was halfway through the book, most of them had already crept snugly into my heart.
Written with emotional insight and compassion, it is clear that the author did in-depth research so as to be able to make the reader feel every emotion, as well as the hopelessness and uncertainty each character experienced. Although I’m giving this superb book a five star rating for a moving plot that oftentimes left me shaken and teary-eyed, it’s still in need of some editing. “Shared Emptiness” is a page-turner that will have a different reflective effect on every reader, leaving you with a multi-layered story and imperfect characters that won’t soon be forgotten.
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