The Last Patient – David Johnson
The Last Patient is a forthright combination of human abuse and how a spark of benevolence can light the way to resolution.
Maggie Stinson has only a few days remaining before she retires from her social-work job when she is asked to attend to one more patient.
“But Maggie … It’s complicated. … You’re perfect for this situation”.
His name is Israel McKenzie and he is one of life’s desperate souls, living in a stinking dilapidated trailer.
They both start at opposite ends of the support system – one living in squalid conditions, dying of cancer and needing palliative care and counselling. The other an experienced social worker offering the social support infrastructure of advice and help. In the end, they both sit side-by-side helping each other come to terms with their demons and the atrocities they’ve experienced. This is a wonderful exploration of searching deep within oneself for meaning, for purpose and for our legacy. It also reaches out to appreciate and harness our social interaction within our communities.
I loved the structure of the book, the plot and the way the story was presented. After the first chapter’s foundation was laid, the next 50% of the book took a step back in time to episodically visit Maggie and Israel as they each progress through an extremely harrowing, corrupt and brutal childhood and young adulthood. The events and experiences during their childhood are quite difficult to handle at times, and I think David Johnston dealt with it carefully and sensitively. My concern was that there was a large catalogue of issues raised during their past and I don’t feel enough time was given to properly outline the impact each had on the two characters. As a result, there was often a feeling of convenience or stretching the story to fit, which upset a natural flow. Some of the incidents felt unnecessary and could have been omitted to spend more time dealing with the depth of other key problems.
When the story returns to the current time and the relationship between Maggie and Israel develops it becomes very emotional. I’m sure there will be tears reading this book. There is an effort between the two to seek closure, redemption and forgiveness. I’m not keen on spirituality themes but there is some consideration given to it in this book, and it works!
It is a relatively short book (which I don’t mind) but in this instance, it felt that the size came at the expense of better rendered or further developed content.
Many thanks to Kindle Press and NetGalley for an ARC version of the book in return for an honest review.