The Possible World – Liese O’Halloran Schwarz
The Possible World is a beautiful, fascinating book to treasure 3 characters and their very poignant stories. The novel is narrated chapter by chapter from the perspective of Ben/Leo, Clare and Lucy. If you were to imagine 3 situations and characters that could provide you with such depth and emotional connection, you would be hard pressed to choose beyond the personal stories in this book.
Ben is a young 6-year-old boy who is the only survivor at a children’s birthday party where a killer has slaughtered Mums and children alike. Immediately our own minds wonder what traumatic impact it will have on him, which is reinforced through wonderful writing to underpin the anguish we feel. As a consequence, he suffers from Post Traumatic Amnesia, and informs the doctors and police his name is Leo.
“No one has told me what’s wrong with me, but it must have something to do with the emptiness in my memory. I know that it should be different, that there should be a long story like a book I’m in the middle of, with pictures and words filling the pages. When they ask me to open the book of my story, every page is blank.”
Lucy is a doctor working in a hospital emergency department and she’s dealing with Leo along with other critical trauma cases. The range of emotions an ED doctor must face on a daily basis are enormous and the constant awareness of getting close to the patients while remaining slightly aloof are a challenge. So what happens when a young innocent boy comes in, covered in his mother’s and friends blood having witnessed multiple murders, and you need to keep your shit together to provide your professional assistance? Lucy remembers the saying ‘You have to love medicine – it won’t love you back.’ I loved the medical terminology having worked around healthcare for a long time and it is very interesting listening to the language and processes clinical staff engage in during diagnosis and treatment. It is not surprising that Liese O’Halloran Schwarz was a medical doctor working in an Emergency Department, but she doesn’t overindulge the clinical terminology and lose her readers.
Clare is nearing her 100th birthday and is living in a nursing home. Her days are spent alone trying not to engage with others and while her mind seems quite sharp she remains quiet, creating a suspicion of dementia or depression. A faltering relationship with Gloria whom early on Clare reminds her that “‘This is the place you’ve come to die’ I can feel the air go still before my next word. ‘Alone.’” The developing friendship with Gloria gives rise to the opportunity for Clare to tell part of her life story.
There is a pervasive sense of anxiety and frustration with each character as they navigate the personal and professional challenges they face. We know each story will come together in a surprising way but how that is achieved is through great story-telling. The only issue I would have is that the pace slackened at times particularly in the middle of the book.
This is a special book exploring deep and really heart-breaking stories that are totally captivating. I had thought of passing on this book and I’m so glad I didn’t. I would like to thank Random House UK, Cornerstone and NetGalley, for an ARC version of the book in return for an honest review.