Living wills and euthanasia are often in the news. There are varying opinions, and with the advent of Dr. Kevorkian, many feel that they have a right to make their own decisions. The topic is sometimes quite controversial and often heated.
In Shared Emptiness, by John Brinling, we follow the life of a family who finds themselves in a situation where this might be something that becomes a part of their own conscious. Brinling has brought us a novel full of love and laughter, family, church — and even danger and drugs. The quotes from Helen Keller are poignant and to the point.
Christopher Carter is a young medical student, the son of Vince and Frances Carter and the brother to Jeannie. His mother and sister belong to the church and his father has an addiction to gambling. In most respects they are like many other families. They have their strengths as well as their problems. Chris is dating a wonderful woman and is well respected. He makes friends easily and is often the center of attention. He is also very opinionated about medicine and that includes the very topic of end of life scenarios.
When he is the victim of foul play and severely injured causing possible brain trauma, all of his previous rants and challenges to his friends and family come into play. But Chris himself is no longer sure, his mind is strong. He struggles with communication, and through the series of some strange and horrifying circumstances he receives further damage. Unsure what is happening, he is at the mercy of the physicians, his friends and his family. They are all questioning their own ethics and feelings and with the lack of communication available they have varying ideas and beliefs. With so much controversy and soul searching, lives are changed forever, and the drama as it occurs is both thought-provoking and quite chilling.
I am sure Shared Emptiness will strike chords with many, some due to the very nature of the issue, but others because we have all lost a loved one. It is the degrees that envelope you in this work, the unimaginable possibilities of having others make decisions, that affect who and what you believe in. This work is both chilling and resolute. The changing dynamics of the characters as they struggle with their own thoughts and personal demons is uncomfortable and painful. The settings were well-written and take you to the places you are meant to see, and make you question your own thoughts and beliefs.
The topic of this novel is so controversial that without the story behind it, I would have found it quite difficult to read. Brinling does a great job of humanizing the process, and yet keeps it true to form. The book is quite long, and yet I could not stop reading, looking to find a way to find the hope behind the horrors involved. Even the ending takes you into another twist that you do not see coming.
I would recommend Shared Emptiness to any who have been or know someone who has been through this harrowing situation. This happens every day to both young and old and makes you challenge the thoughts you carry. This would be a strong recommendation for a book club or reading group. The work is something you may want to discuss with others, the chill hard to dispel. Brinling has brought forth a subject that is not comfortable, and puts a new face on it.