“I always wanted to be him,’ I said… Maybe he wanted to be like you, too.”
– Bernard Beckett, Lullaby
I remember the machine by his bed. It made a sound like sighing. Numbers twitched, unable to settle. A jagged line sawed across the screen. At least it was something to look at. Something that wasn’t him. They’d brushed his hair, as if he were already dead. A song came into my head, I couldn’t chase it away. ‘Girlfriend in a Coma.’ I pretended to smile, pretended to be brave. ‘Twin brother in a coma,’ I mouthed, ‘I know it’s serious.’ He would have laughed. He would have been better than me at this.
From the author of Genesis and August, a new psychological thriller that questions what it is that makes us who we are.
Rene’s twin brother Theo lies unconscious in hospital after a freak accident left him with massively disrupted brain function. There is hope, though. An experimental procedure—risky, scientifically exciting and ethically questionable—could allow him to gain a new life. But what life, and at what cost?
Only Rene can give the required consent. And now he must face that difficult decision.
But first there is the question of Rene’s capacity to make that decision. And this is where the real story begins.
One upon a time there was a girl who opened up a package in the mail to find a strange looking book peeking out at her. She read the blurb, added it to the pile of review books and picked it up to read a few days later (after she finished the one she was currently reading)…
Rene is a 17-year-old male about to make the biggest decision of his life. At the start of the book the reader has no idea what this decision is, only that his twin brother Theo is lying in a hospital bed left brain dead after what we can only assume was some kind of accident. What follows is a session between Rene and Maggie – the hospital psychologist – to determine if Rene is of sound mind to make the impending decision. Maggie asks him to go back to the very beginning, “I don’t remember the beginning. I think they had to pull us out. I imagine there was screaming”. Rene uses sarcasm and intelligence to try and manipulate the situation but he soon realises that the hardest questions are going to be asked and he answers them with surprising honesty for a male teen. No topic is off limits – the magic of childhood and the times they ‘swapped’ identities and the struggles of growing up including school, friendships, drug abuse and sex.
‘I’m stitched together from pride and fear, mostly. That’s the shameful truth of it.’
‘Fear of what?’
I don’t understand how Maggie could be so smart, and yet so stupid.
“Embarrassment, confusion, rejection, public humiliation. Take your pick.’
While Lullaby covers a very short time span and never ventures further from the hospital (in the present time), it certainly leaves the reader with plenty to think about. I had to do some research before I sat down to write this review; I pulled out a philosophy book off my shelf and googled the author to find out where he was coming from. Philosophy is the practice of questioning the foundations of your knowledge; it is looking through the mirrors of the personal and reshaping the self through observation and reason. Beckett says,
“Part of the teenage experience is the realisation that the simple world of reliable authority figures and protectors is behind you, and ahead lies a mess that you alone will have to navigate…If nobody knows anything for sure, then the people who tell me how the world is might be wrong, which means I have permission to consider the world anew, and reach my own conclusions, permission, in short, to enter adulthood.”
Rene’s decision has far greater implications than even the professionals understand and this forces them all to consider what they believe is true,
‘The first thing you learn about the mind is how delicate it is, how easily it can come apart. When we are well, the world feels solid, there are a thousand different certainties we can call upon to conjure up the self… but the whole thing is a trick of balance and perspective… lose one of those certainties, and you will quickly discover how many others it was holding in place.’
This is an excellent book. It is a rare kind of young adult book that aims to leave the reader with more than just the usual afterthoughts of the story. Beckett encourages the reader on his or her own philosophical journey and while I am not yet sure where that leaves me, I encourage you to give this book a go!
AUTHOR: Bernard Beckett
PUBLISHER: Text Publishing
PUB DATE: May 27 2015
Thank you to Text Publishing for sending me a reading copy in exchange for an honest review!