SHOULD WE STAY OR SHOULD WE GO
By Lionel Shriver
Once we meet them of their 50s, the Wilkinsons, Kay and Cyril, a married couple, she a nurse and he a physician in Britain’s Nationwide Well being Service, she a blowzy free spirit who likes her wine, he an earnest socialist intoxicated by his personal advantage, are contemplating whether or not they need to kill themselves. Not instantly, however in due time. They’ve their causes.
Kay’s father, a sufferer of dementia, has simply expired after an extended decline. For Kay, her father’s “infinite dotage” was a demoralizing ordeal that grated on her senses — its smells, its messes — and appeared to take years off her personal life. For Cyril, a person who tends to overthink issues in a cold utilitarian manner and is all the time alert to the pursuits of the collective, the drawn-out dying of his father-in-law was proof that aged individuals linger too lengthy on earth, consuming medical and social sources which are greatest dedicated to youthful people.
And so, over drinks one evening, Cyril proposes a plan that he hopes will save his spouse and him — to not point out the state — loads of hassle. Once they flip 80 (or fairly when Kay turns 80, as a result of she is a couple of months youthful than he) they may down an overdose of sleeping tablets that Cyril has already stashed within the fridge, 30 years forward of time. Kay is skeptical of this plan at first, however after noticing sooner or later that her mom has began to develop forgetful, she tells her husband: “I’m all in.”
With the winding of this fatalistic clock, which requires just a few pages and transpires within the type of chipper banter paying homage to a Noël Coward comedy, we discover ourselves within the realm of the high-concept. We’re studying a novel of points, a thesis novel regarding euthanasia and medical rationing. It’s not ripped from the headlines, maybe, however neatly clipped from them, its method quippy, satirical and arch, its characters able to op-ed-style rants on the questions at hand, and on many others too. Present affairs such because the Brexit vote are the couple’s abiding curiosity, much more than their very own kids (or so it appears). For instance, right here is Cyril on the pandemic, which occurs to strike within the novel because the Wilkinsons are approaching their long-contemplated final act:
“I’ve studied the info. That weedy, doom-mongering laptop modeler at Imperial School London who predicted 510,000 British deaths with out draconian intervention — he has his head up his bottom. The ponce might have Boris in his thrall, however Neil Ferguson has overestimated the lethality of the virus by at the least an order of magnitude.”