*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: I’m Still Here
Author: Clelie Avit (translated by Lucy Foster)
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: August 2016
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Elsa has been in a coma for five months. With all hope of reviving her gone, her family and doctors are having to face the devastating fact that it might be time to turn off her life support… They don’t realise that in the past few weeks Elsa has regained partial consciousness; she knows where she is and can hear everyone talking around her bed, but she has no way of telling them she’s there. Thibault is in the same hospital visiting his brother, a drunk driver responsible for the deaths of two teenage girls. Thibault’s emotions are in turmoil and, needing a retreat, he finds his way into Elsa’s room. Seeing her lying there so peacefully, he finds it hard to believe she is not just sleeping. Thibault begins to visit Elsa regularly. As he learns more about her through her family and friends, he begins to realise that he is developing feelings for her. And when he talks to her, he can’t help feeling that she can hear his every word… For Elsa, his visits are like a breath of fresh air. Here is finally someone who speaks to her as if she is a real life person. Who makes her laugh. And who gives her something to fight for… And so begins a love story that might just save both their lives…
I found that this book was too short for the tough issues that it deals with, and I would have been totally happy to have an extra hundred pages to read. This book addresses so much: euthanasia, drunk driving, suicide. It brings up the tough choices that families have to make when their loved ones are hospitalized, and potentially unresponsive.
Thibault is an interesting character. He discovers Elsa in his search to find a little bit of peace, and he finds so much more. Although she is in a coma, he finds a confidante in Elsa as he deals with his brother’s crimes. He cannot forgive his brother, but he begins to heal as he shares himself with Elsa. I’m quite impressed at the lax hospital security and his ability to sneak into Elsa’s room so frequently with very little questioning. Through his visits, Thibault falls in love with Elsa, although one has to wonder if he’s just falling in love with the idea of her. Regardless, his devotion and his visits help to lead Elsa on a positive path that ultimately saves her life.
What I struggled with the most was the decision of the doctors that Elsa was no longer responsive. It states that the last tests that had been done were months prior. As the reader, we know that Elsa is progressing forward and does have brain activity. Yet, the hospital decides that it’s best to shut down her life support and let her die without conducting more recent tests that surely would have yielded more positive results. Perhaps this is the way it works, but as a reader, this seems incredibly unrealistic. I couldn’t believe that the doctors would shut down her life support without first ensuring that Elsa was 100% gone.
This wasn’t a story that I loved, although I feel like it has a lot of potential. There are a few problematic issues as I mentioned above, that need to be worked out, but I think this story could have been really great. For me, it was only ok as it is right now. It certainly sparks a lot of thought on really tough issues, but it fell short in its exploration of these issues.