As part of my 2011 goal to read more books, I’d also like to introduce occasional book reviews to Tiger Print. Since my goal is to read more current books, and not necessarily the classics, these reviews will hopefully come in handy to some blog readers looking for a new book to read or to recommend. If you have a must-read for me, feel free to email me or leave a comment suggesting a new title.
About a year ago I read the book Life As We Knew It and was enraptured. The book, written by Susan Beth Pfeffer, chronicles the life of Miranda, a typical high school student whose life is turned upside down after a meteor hits the moon knocking it off its normal axis and causing all sorts of weather-related trauma.
The book is intense, in that life is not easy for Miranda, her mother or her two brothers. They have to learn how to survive without any of the normal comforts their previous life contained. There is no running water, no grocery stores, no heat. Miranda and her family have to make difficult decisions in order to survive. But through it all Miranda is heroic and determined. She is the kind of young woman we all would want to be when faced with this situation.
Remembering my enjoyment of this book, I picked up the third and final book in the series, This World We Live In. I expected to find a similarly strong and determined young woman, one who I would be rooting for till the end – whatever that end happened to be. And in the beginning that is what I found. Miranda was still determined to keep her family together, even if she and her mother still fought like they used to when life was normal. She would go out and scavenge through abandoned houses to find even a scrap of something useful for the family – a half roll of toilet paper, a can of cat food. Whatever.
But then half-way through the book, there was a twist in the story, a boy Miranda’s age and his sister joined their group and predictably, she fell in love with him. The boy, Alex, and his sister, Julie, are Catholic in the book and despite not having anything that resembles a church or community anywhere in the vicinity they still practice their faith as best they can. But Alex is haunted by the need to protect his sister, no matter the cost. He tells Miranda that he has a couple sleeping pills that he will give his sister in order to ease her death if there should ever come a point when dying was better than living.
Of course that opportunity comes up, but Alex isn’t around at the moment. A tornado rips through the town, Julie’s body is flung up and lands in such a way that she is completely paralyzed from the neck down. Miranda can’t bear the sight of her in such a state, even though Julie hasn’t lost her cheerful demeanor or her faith. So taking matters into her own hands, Miranda slips her the sleeping pills and when Julie is asleep, she suffocates her with a pillow. Miranda falls asleep next to the body, feeling no real regret, instead she is sure that she has done Alex a favor by killing his sister. Shock.
The trouble is that the whole series builds the reader up so that you love Miranda and feel for the horrible situation she finds herself in. Euthanasia is no big deal. There are no moral implications, no debates about whether it was right or wrong. It was just something she did. You are supposed to feel like this was the right and fair decision. It was the only decision, because death was better than life. Plus, by Miranda doing the deed instead of Alex, she was being the virtuous one because Alex knew it was wrong to do and Miranda didn’t have those convictions. She was saving him from life-long guilt and grief. But the truth is that every life, no matter how ‘sad-looking’ it might be, is worth while. Every life is sacred and worth fighting for. Euthanasia isn’t an easy and fair way out. And no matter how merciful it appears it is still ending another person’s life – something human being doesn’t have the right or the duty to decide for himself or another.