After reviewed by Vivian

In ‘After’, author Nikki Gemmell, explores the circumstances surrounding her mother’s death. As she delves further into her mother’s life it becomes evident that Elayn Gemmell euthanised herself. It came as a shock to Nikki and I imagine the writing of this book has been a cathartic experience for Nikki as she examines the issues of euthanasia, pain management and family relationships. The book is written in short paragraphs and each one is a memory or thought relating to Elayn. This is how Nikki processed her grief by jumping from one thought to another. 

Nikki explores the idea of euthanasia and whether it is done out of despair or empowerment. She also examines how her mother suffered form excruciating pain and how society often brushes this off as something you endure instead of managing. Elayn suffered intolerable pain in her feet. As a result foot pain becomes knee pain, then hip pain and then back pain. For Elayn the ‘pain had caused her to become someone else. Who she hated’. Elayn was a supporter of euthanasia but with grandmothers who lived till 100 it’s possible Elayn still had alot of living to do but that option was taken from her because of the intolerable pain.

In ‘After’ Nikki explores her relationship with her mother. Nikki grew up with a dominating mother who at times was cruel and blunt. She said things that were mean and hurtful. As a result their relationship was fractured. Elayn wasn’t the mother Nikki wanted and Nikki wasn’t the daughter Elayn wanted. At the first opportunity Nikki left and spent the next 15 years across the other side of the world. When Nikki  returned with her own family she reestablished her relationship with her mother. At times it was still rocky and occasionally she thought “it will be better when she’s gone”. It wasn’t. The release she was expecting didn’t​ come. Nikkis strong message is to cherish your relationships particularly with your mother. If you are having issues with the relationship, then mend them and if you are unable to do so then find a way around it –  compromise. Find a space in which the relationship can work – because you will miss them when they are gone. Nikki was just finding that space when she lost her mother.

This is a very thought provoking book on so many levels.

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