“I also knew that if things went as planned, these were the final chapters, the final paragraphs, the final sentences I would ever get from her”.
The book Extraordinary is truly extraordinary! It is unique, almost lyrical, difficult to put down and leaves the reader pondering the story once the book is placed back on the shelf. Thanks go to a colleague who recommended and lent me this book which is very timely since Canada has legalized medical assistance in dying.
The story takes place on a Saturday night in Sally’s apartment. The narrator, her brother, is spending the night as they reminisce and prepare for her suicide. Sally had been in a freak accident. She had tripped and fractured her neck. As things started to become more difficult she chose to end her life with the support of her brother who found her the pills and stayed with her as she died.
The siblings shared drinks and talked about their lives including their parents, their sibling and her two children. Sally spoke about her divorce, her move to Mexico and her relationship with her children. The boy and girl had been given the same care and opportunities yet each chose completely different paths.
Extraordinary was nominated for the 2013 Giller Prize long list and is his 9th novel. His previous novel, A Perfect Night to Go to China, won the 2015 Governor General’s Award. Gilmour was born in London, Ontario and resides in Toronto where he lectures at the University of Toronto.
This book was an unexpected gem. It considers the serious topics of assisted suicide and complicated family dynamics. It left me wondering about the lasting impact on the narrator and the reaction of Sally’s daughter (perhaps a follow up book in the future?). It is a great read but make sure that you have the time to read it in one sitting as it will be difficult to put down.
“Her hand grew still colder, and as it grew colder I could feel a change come over, see a change rather, and I understood for the first time in my life that we are born with a soul and that it inhabits our body our whole lifetime and when we die, reluctantly, like children leaving a park, our soul very gently disengages and moves off, like a shadow, and takes with it all that makes us human, all that made us us. And behind, in its wake, is just a body, an uninhabited residence”.