Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult

‘Another Jodi Picoult’, I can hear some of you groaning 🙂

Yes, another one, and no more for a while, I suspect, because I think I have finally read all of hers so far.

Luke Warren and his 17 year old daughter Cara have been in a terrible car crash. Cara has  a horrible shoulder injury and Luke is in a coma. Cara wakes up to her mother Georgie(Luke’s ex wife) beside her and no sign of her dad. Georgie has already called Edward, their son, from Thailand. Luke is being given very slim chances of recovery by the doctors.

Edward had fled to Thailand after a disagreement with his dad, Luke. He has not been in contact with his sister or his father ever since. He is back for the first time after he left.

Luke is a wolf researcher, who looks after and lives with the captive wolves in the reserve. Cara, his daughter, lives with him since her mother had twins, and she felt more comfortable with her dad’s. Cara also holds a grudge against her older brother Edward for leaving the family and going away to Thailand. She blames her parents separating and divorcing on her brother’s departure. In her mind, none of this would have happened if Edward had not left.

Edward is Luke’s next of kin, since Cara is three months away from turning eighteen. Given that Luke is in a coma, with the doctor’s prognosis of little chance of him surviving and leading a normal life, Edward is asked to make the decision whether or not to pull the plug. Edward decides that his father would not want to have a vegetative exsitence, while Cara strongly disagrees. Edward feels, that a man like his dad, who was happiest with the wolves, happiest being outdoors, wouldn’t want to live on a machine. Cara, on the other hand  wants to keep her father alive, and believes that anything is possible. She believes that her father might recover, and that Edward is in a hurry to end his father’s life. She believes that her brother cannot possibly understand her father better than her after being away for six years, and having had no communication with him, in those years away.

They end up in court fighting to get appointed the next of kin for Luke. In true Jodi Picoult style, there are many threads running and a difficult decision to make. Luke, as he is perceived by the people whose lives he touched, is revealed. Cara, his daughter who idolized him. Georgie, his ex-wife, who found happiness with her now husband Joe. Edward, who has the biggest issues with his dad. Will Edward be unbiased in his decision? Can Cara make unbiased decisions for that matter? Can anybody be truly unbiased? And who would truly understand what Luke would have wanted.

The story of Luke’s living with the wolves in the wild, carries on as a parallel thread. That gives us a perspective of Luke’s life and motivations. Here is a man who lives a life which most of us cannot even begin to imagine. He went to live in the wild, becoming one of the wolves, part of the pack, eating raw meat, living like a wolf in the true sense. He seems to be a person far more at home with his wolf family than his human family. The expectations from his human family seems far more complex to him. He almost seems to have forgotten to live a human life.

He had been a  hero, appearing on TV, his wolves being his first priority, but like everybody else, a human, with his own flaws and problems.For his wife and son, they seem to come second to his wolves. For his daughter, he was a true hero – nothing anybody said,or believed, could detract from that, for her.

I think this is what I like about Picoult – all her characters are real, in the sense that every one of them have flaws, have deep secrets, and face tough moral dilemmas(although far tougher and complex ones that the rest of us might face).

The amount of research Picoult must have done for this book, is mind boggling. The details that she recounts, are amazing! In her foreword, she mentions that she realized that there is a person, Shaun Ellis, who actually lives among wolves. And he has written a memoir ‘The Man who lives with Wolves’. I think I will definitely be reading this book.

It is a beautiful story. Picoult adds her ingredients of moral dilemmas, which are difficult to work with, and blends it with emotions, perceptions, and lives of all her characters to make it a fascinating read. Another book which stays with you. Making you wonder, what one would do if faced with such a situation – having to decide when to let a loved one go.

The Right to Die.

There has been a controversy raging here in Britain about the Right to die.

A mother was cleared, last week, of charges of attempted murder of  her daughter who was suffering from the neurological condition ME.  Kathleen(Kay) Gilderdale had earlier admitted aiding and abetting the suicide of her 31 year old daughter who had battled ME for 17 years. She insists that she only acted in the best interests of her daughter.

Lynn Gilderdale’s moving account if her life and why she desperately wanted to end it, is enough to move amyone to tears. From an active, healthy girl, she becomes a bedridden woman, with multiple complications. When she did finally take her life, her mother helped her in it and ended up having charges of attempted murder on her. Luckily for her, the jury decided that she acted in the interests of and by the wishes of her daughter in helping her die. The judge even said that she should never have been prosecuted in the first place. Here is Kay’s account of why she helped her daughter die.

In another similar case, a mother was found guilty of murdering her son. Francis Inglis maintains that she acted out of love and compassion when she injected her brain-damaged son with a lethal dose of heroin. Her family and everybody who mattered to Tom, her son, is in full support of her action and were dismayed to hear the jury’s verdict.

These two contradicting verdicts, indicate the debate  and conflicting opinion that surrounds the delicate topic of Euthanasia. In Britain, apparently 75% people support the demand for change in euthanasia laws that would prevent carers of terminally ill patients from being prosecuted for assisted suicide.

Despite the huge public support for cases like this, the change in law would not be so easy. There is a lot of criticism from various quarters that are objecting to glorifying ‘mercy killing’. A GP talks about why he feels that legalizing assisted suicide, in his opinion is not right.The Archbishop of York has come of strongly against celebrity endorsements of euthanasia. At the end of the day, legalizing assisted suicides would be a very difficult task, mainly, because of the difficulty in categorizing which situations actually require it. And how would the law be framed such that it is not misused.

Any way, reading about the accounts of Kay Gilderdale’s situation of losing her daughter, of outliving her daughter( one of the most painful things for a parent)  and then being forced to defend her actions in court, being called a murderer of her own daughter, the daughter she was so devoted was very, very moving. It is sad that because of the law, the way it is, such people face prosecution. But is legalizing assisted suicides the solution? Where do you stand on it? What about in our country, India, do you think it makes sense or is it more than likely to be misused? Or do you think it is already happening but does not get reported because of the way things are?