The Easy Way Out – Steven Amsterdam

Assisted suicide is not everyone’s cup of tea, but Steven Amsterdam‘s The Easy Way Out (review copy from Quercus through NetGalley) is warm, darkly comic and very life-affirming.

Evan is a nurse who has drifted through life and relationships without ever putting down roots.  His mother’s diagnosis with Parkinson’s and her increasingly frail health force him to settle to look after her and help cover her medical bills.  He takes a job as a nurse in a new pilot hospital programme that takes advantage of the recent legalisation of assisted suicide.  His role is to help with the assessment and treatment of participants, assisting them and their loved ones to make decisions about end of life within the confines of the law, and to help them to carry out their wishes.  As his mother’s health declines, Evan is forced to confront the question of whether he would be willing to help his mother end her life when the time comes.

At its heart this is a novel about compassion and the human spirit.  Evan is found to be unsuitable for his role in assisting the dying because he seeks to make emotional connections with patients and their families, showing compassion and engaging with them as people rather than patients.  The hospital’s programme is motivated as much by the desire to save money on end life care costs as it is by the desire to give people control over the timing and manner of their deaths.  The zest and passion for life shown by Evan’s mother as she enjoys a temporary reprieve from her degenerative illness illustrates the importance of autonomy and control over one’s destiny.  Her individuality manifests itself in surprising and delightful ways, in ways that the healthcare system would otherwise stifle.

For all its dark subject matter, The Easy Way Out is a sweet and warm book.

Goodreads rating: 3*

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