I’ve read two books lately where the main characters were on the point of death. The first was NEWES FROM THE DEAD by Mary Hooper which is out this month in paperback. The second was IF I STAY by Gayle Forman which was sent to me as a proof copy. Both books are very different and yet they have this central thread that is the same. The person telling the story is barely alive. The tension of each story is whether that person will pull through.
NEWES FROM THE DEAD tells the true story of Anne Green who was hanged for infanticide and her body sold for dissection. From the dark of her coffin Anne Green thinks over her short life giving the reader the background to this grisly scene. It’s a terrific read and the tension is at times unbearable.
In IF I STAY Mia’s family are killed in an horrific road accident at the beginning and Mia’s life hangs in balance in the hospital. Her spirit though rises above her comatose body and becomes the narrator, telling the reader what is happening in the hospital around and filling in chunks of her family life up till this poignant moment.
The position of both of these narrators is an ideal one. At the point of death, the cliché goes one’s life flashes before one’s eyes.
Both novels depict gruesome situations and are not for the squeamish. Both novels are gripping with adult themes and yet each is set in a different time. Anne Green is a servant girl in 1650. Mia is contemporary, a teenager with a boyfriend and a love of music.
As each of them lie close to death the reader wonders whether they will have the strength and the will and the desire to live.