I live in Bristol UK literary fiction and crime are my books of choice and when not reading I like to run
If I die before I wake is one of a number of books that I have read which introduces the reader to a condition referred to as permanent vegetative state: Westlake Soul by Rio Youers and Blood Sisters by Jane Corry are both excellent in their interpretation and use of PVS as the basis for a novel. Emily Koch expertly creates a crime thriller around the tragic accident that happens to Alex Jackson one Saturday morning when he falls 20 metres from a cliff face along the Portway in Bristol. This story is all the more remarkable when you realize this is the first published thriller by Miss Koch and if this is an example of her ability then she most certainly has a bright writing future.
What this book has in common with the two novels previously mentioned is that the story unfolds through the mind of the patient. Alex is aware of his surroundings, he can understand and grasp what is being said about him and he can appreciate the interaction between various friends and relatives on a daily basis; in particular his wife Bea, father Graham and sister Phillipa. What emerges is simply no one is sure whether Alex has been hospitalized due to an accident or something more sinister. It is only you the reader who occupies the mind of the patient and when Alex desperately tries to move and communicate you feel that struggle and will him to be successful. The story of was he pushed or did he fall is revealed in a very slow and clever way, the key to the puzzle hidden in Alex's past.
The central dilemma in If I die before I wake is the moral issue of what is an appropriate time to remove life support from a patient when, after various tests, it becomes clear that recovery is impossible. This leads to the assumption that anyone with PVS has no future, you will need to read the novel to find out if this is true all I will reveal is that the closing paragraphs create a magical and appropriate conclusion. Many thanks to the good people of netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.