Dutton, 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
tephen White is renowned for his psychological thrillers starring psychologist Dr. Alan Gregory, who practices in Boulder, Colorado. He's taken a very different, but even more intriguing, tack in
, in which Gregory is only peripherally involved as the psychologict consulted by the protagonist.
he anonymous narrator is a very wealthy, happily married businessman and father, who likes to live on the edge. He goes over it, skiing in the Bugaboos in the Canadian Rockies. His near-fatal accident, as well as news of a good friend's scuba diving injury (that left him a vegetable) leads to a friend's telling him about the
. They offer an unusual, and rather sinister kind of insurance, to arrange death under '
'. Our hero has watched his beloved elder brother Connie wasting away with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), a prospect that fills him with terror. He decides to sign up with the
for their '
', and a convoluted series of meetings follow, involving a lovely, sophisticated women who tells him to call her
s, through therapy sessions with Dr. Gregory, we learn of the progression of these
arrangements, we also learn of the genius son (Adam) Gregory's patient didn't know he had, who begins to show up on an irregular basis. The protagonist's wife Thea is very supportive of the relationship, but Adam is wary, fearing losing his new-found father just as he suddenly lost his stepfather years before. Then, our hero, who seems like a very decent, though perhaps selfish man, receives dire news by telephone in a boardroom - he has an aneurysm. As it progresses, the parameters that he set himself kick in, and his insurance activates. But now he wants to settle things with Adam before he dies, and Adam has disappeared. The client tracks down Lizzie, at which point events get very convoluted and very interesting.
t's a fascinating story told by someone who thought he was buying '
peace of mind
', but instead gave up hope for '
one more good day, or one more good hour, or one more intimate meal, or even one last shared smile
' with loved ones. Stephen White ties it all up in a very appropriate ending, and in his Acknowledgements, speaks of a friend who taught '
invaluable lessons about one special man's ability to continue living until he took his last breath.
' Though this novel will not be what Stephen White's fans expect from him, I recommend
as a most unusual and thought-provoking read.
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