Books & Literature

Book Review: Lily Harford’s Last Request, by Joanna Buckley

FICTION: A thought-provoking, vivid and moving exploration of how we value a life well lived, and the decisions we make when that life is coming to an end.

Broaches a delicate subject with much sensitivity.

Lily Harford’s Last Request is a novel about difficult decisions, quality versus quantity of life, and ageing in an empowering way.

The story centres around Lily Harford who has recently been diagnosed with dementia and is ready to leave the world on her terms. Having always been a strong and independent woman who raised her daughter solo whilst simultaneously running a successful business, the thought of further incapacity torments her.

Writing from three different perspectives, author Joanna Buckley cleverly skirts the political pro-life debate and tackles the subject of euthanasia from the viewpoints of the care nurse in the aged care home, the daughter, and the sick person. In this way, Buckley is able to bring out some of the many issues that surround the idea of euthanasia without a religious or political component being part of it. Instead, the themes centre on benevolence, grief, and losing bodily control.

In dialogues between the daughter Pauline, and her husband (who is fond of his mother-in-law), the reader is also given an additional, perhaps more objective view in support of Lily. Although in many ways, he is directly emotionally connected, the slight distance of the relationship portrays how an outsider may view the situation. After all, although he is forced to grieve, he isn’t feeling abandoned or angry like the daughter, or, as in the case of the care nurse Donna, seeing the direct impact of Lily’s physical decline for hours each day.

It may seem that the relationship between care nurse Donna and resident Lily should be more distant than that of mother and son-in-law, however Buckley has provided sufficient character development of both to explain the bond between the pair, so as to understand why this particular resident was special to Donna. There are not many unexpected twists in this novel, and it is relatively predictable, however the purpose of this story is not to create suspense.

This is the type of book that is easily digested. It is a lighter book about a heavy topic and can be quite easily read from end to end without needing a break. Although the lack of intensity may not appeal to all readers, it can be perfect for this type of topic, as it allows you to be in different shoes without being overly provocative. It would really suit adult carers of parents with declining health, as it runs though many of the emotions that a carer experiences.

Reviewed by Rebecca Wu

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not necessarily of Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: HarperCollins Publishers
Released: February 2022
RRP: $29.99

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