The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks, an imprint of HarperCollins
Matt and Elle, Elle and Matt. The two have been together for as long as either of them can remember, from the day that infant Elle was brought home from the hospital when Matt was two. After a terrible breakup as teenagers and a time apart, the two eventually marry and are stronger than ever, despite their problems with infertility. Until, that is, Matt gets a call. Elle has fallen off a ladder at her brother’s house and is at the hospital. As a neurosurgeon, Matt understands the severity of Elle’s injuries, and it quickly becomes apparent that this is not something from which Elle can recover, if she lives at all she will be a vegetable and there is no chance of recovery. Everyone close to Elle knows that she has no desire to be kept alive by machines, not after her mother’s chronic illness. Matt is fully prepared to pull the plug on his beloved wife, until he finds out that she is pregnant, in her first trimester. Elle has always wanted for them to have a child and Matt believes that this desire would have trumped her fear of being kept alive by extraordinary measures, but can he convince everyone else to keep Elle alive long enough to give their child a chance?
The Promise of Stardust is an incredibly moving book. Sibbley has a background in nursing, so she understands the medical and ethical issues at stake after Elle’s accident and is able to convey them to the reader without making a novel read like a manifesto. Sibley’s characters are wonderfully drawn, particularly Matt. He is at once both conflicted and supremely sure that he knows his wife and her wishes better than anyone else. What really draws the reader into The Promise of Stardust is the fact that all of the characters therein are acting in what they believe is Elle’s best interest, in accord with what they believe her wishes were. There is much conflict and strife, but it all comes from a good place. I’ll tell you that I personally was on board with Matt’s point of view, but I did find myself wondering how reliable his memories of Elle were; was he remembering things selectively because it meant that he would potentially have a tangible reminder of his marriage? A book club could talk about this for hours.
The Promise of Stardust is a debut that readers won’t be able to help but engage with. It is an incredibly emotional read, but not in a manipulative way. There is an incredible amount to discuss here, Elle’s case has ramifications in the questions not only about end-of-life issues but also about women’s right to choice. Sibley presents it all very evenhandedly, resulting something that is really the ultimate book club book.
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