The Easy Way Out (Steven Amsterdam, Hachette)
Steven Amsterdam’s previous books Things We Didn’t See Coming and What the Family Needed are heavy with apocalyptic vision and metaphor, so his latest novel will immediately strike his fans as comparatively realist. In The Easy Way Out, Amsterdam applies this exploration of extremes and use of metaphor to the subject of dying and its attendant complications. Evan works for an experimental program in an inner-city hospital, assisting terminally ill patients to end their life. At home he watches the decline of Viv, his stubborn and increasingly feisty mother—‘Feisty is another word for impotent. Go fuck yourself’—into the late stages of degenerative illness. When Evan comes up against the limitations of the hospital-administered program, he explores other options. Amsterdam’s experience as a palliative care nurse has strongly informed this narrative and the descriptions of patients of all ages and stages of illness—and their loved ones—makes for fairly harrowing reading. There is beauty in these death scenes though: in the careful washing of bodies, in the love expressed and the suffering ended. Though the story moves towards a seemingly inevitable intersection between Evan’s personal and professional lives, it manages to surprise. There is plenty to mull over in this challenging and topical story by a talented and thoughtful writer.
Portia Lindsay is the general manager of the Mudgee Readers’ Festival