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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Promise of Stardust A Thoughtful, Decent Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Astronaut Elle McClure walked away from a threatened space mission unscathed—Matt Beaulieu is pretty sure his fearless wife can survive anything.  But when Elle suffers a traumatic brain injury after falling off a ladder, she slips into a coma from which, experts say, she's unlikely to awaken.  As much as he hates to let her go, Matt knows Elle had strong opinions about prolonging the lives of people in vegetative states.  She didn't want to suffer a slow, agonizing death, the way her mother did.  Maybe Elle never put her wishes in writing, but Matt is 100% sure his bright, adventurous wife would not want to waste away in a hospital bed.  And he's prepared to honor her wishes, however difficult it might be for him to take her off life support.  
Then, Matt receives news that changes everything:  Elle is eight weeks pregnant.  After suffering through multiple life-threatening miscarriages, the 38-year-old is carrying a baby who appears to be healthy.  Matt knows there's only one thing that would have made Elle reconsider her desire not to have her life lengthened by artificial means—the chance to bear a child.  It was the one thing she wanted above anything else, the one thing she longed for, hoped for, would have sacrificed her own life for (and nearly did).  Matt knows this and he's determined to make the decision in her place, no matter what anyone else thinks of his choice.  

Living with himself, though, is an entirely different thing.  As Matt watches his wife's body shut down, he's wracked with torment.  How can he do this to the woman he's loved since childhood?  It doesn't help that his plight has turned into a media circus, bringing all kinds of journalists and protesters right to his front door.  Even his mother doesn't trust his judgment.  With a court case looming, Elle's body shutting down, and Matt's emotional state becoming more fragile by the hour, it's a race against time to save the person that matters most to Matt—but is that his wife or his baby?  

In her debut novel, The Promise of Stardust, Priscille Sibley puts her characters into an impossible situation.  Through them, she examines complicated themes like love, family, and the rights of comatose people and unborn children.  Hot button issues, all.  As a neonatal intensive care nurse, Sibley obviously has strong feelings about the issues, as well as the knowledge and compassion to address them in an open-minded, yet sensitive manner.  Still, the situation felt a little unconvincing to me.  The characters who opposed Matt's decision to keep Elle alive came off as callous and cold-hearted.  Maybe this comes from the story being told by only one narrator (Matt), but I found myself unable to sympathize with anyone but him (and Elle, of course).  And I didn't even find Matt particularly likable!  So, yeah, I would have liked a better rounded story with a cast I cared more about.  Having just read Lone Wolf, a Jodi Picoult novel with a similar premise, I've decided I like Picoult's multiple-narrator approach a lot more than Sibley's Matt-only format.  The former just provides a fuller, more thought-provoking story.  

So, what did I think of The Promise of Stardust, overall?  It's decent.  The characters didn't do a lot for me, the writing's a little bumpy and the main situation just didn't seem all that convincing to me, BUT the novel was still thoughtful and interesting.  It definitely kept me turning pages.  Did it knock my socks off?  No, but it held my interest well enough.  For the most part, it's a decent read.   

(Readalikes:  Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult)

Grade:  B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  R for strong language and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Promise of Stardust from the generous folks at Harper Collins.  Thank you!

1 comment:

  1. Well, that is a touchy subject. I really hate when you really can't care for even one character, though.


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