My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Buying this book gave me nightmares.
This book is about the author’s brother being hit by a car at age 16 and becoming severely brain-damaged. Matty Mintern spent eight years in a persistent vegetative state, and then his nutrition was withdrawn and he died.
Reading the blurb and seeing the cover in my to-read pile made me have nightmares about the death of my own two brothers. But now I’ve read it, I know that they were good dreams compared to what could happen to them.
For some reason I fixated on the intimate details of the story. I don’t mean intimate in a positive way. That shortly after the crash the simple act of Matty being raised to a vertical position for physiotherapy made him do an enormous poo. That his family noticed he occasionally got a slight erection, and mistakenly saw this as a good sign. That in his mother’s affidavit eight years later, she said that his vegetative life was composed solely of having food pushed into him at one end and coaxed out of the other with suppositories.
I cried twice. Once near the end of the book, when Rentzenbrink dreams of a Matty as old as her instead of sixteen years old. He tells her that he’s glad she did it – allowed him to die – and she puts her hand on his face. (Or perhaps it was when Matty died, and Rentzenbrink describes his coffin and how the accident changed him from being a six-foot-four tall lad to being very, inconveniently “long”). And once when I went online and looked up Matty’s face.
I understood what Rentzenbrink meant about the spark in his eyes, and I imagined how it might feel like to look into them and long for their spark to come back.
I read this book quickly, like pulling off a plaster.