Friday, August 31, 2012

This is a review of NEVER LET ME GO by Kazuo Ishiguro.

I've been debating whether or not I should do this review. There are some awesome ones already. What can I add? Probably nothing.

I read NEVER LET ME GO as a consequence of belonging to a book club that meets monthly at a local Barnes & Noble store. My wife --- we've been married forty-one years --- recommended it to the group. My wife's been recently reading extensively --- not that she hasn't always --- but more so now because she has chronic cancer. The malignancy, and her treatments for it, keep her down. She can't do the physical activities she used to, so she spends time in less intensive physical activities, like reading. So whereas she used to get a daily physical workout, now her mind gets an extra rigorous one.

My wife found this list: the 1001 novels you should read before you die. This book was the first one on it. She hadn't read it, so she did some research, found data indicating it had been awarded various prizes, given much merit, and had favorable reviews from people on Goodreads, Amazon, and the like. So she recommended that the group read it. Among other suggestions by others, her recommendation won out.

I'm very glad we read it. It is well written, thought-provoking, and, to me, haunting. It is a treatise on morality and ethics blended into a tender, moving, and heartrending story. It was subtly done, not at all jarring or didactic. It seemed kind of like adding exactly the right amount of garlic to a roasting chicken, one that once cooked tastes scrumptious so you want your fill, but you're prevented from doing so.

The novel presents the story of that one wish --- never, as a human being, to be let go of --- which is quite universal. I think everyone wishes to have someone in life who will stick with them to the end, who will always hang on and hang out with them. I remember easily it's main characters: TOMMY D., RUTH, and KATHY H.

KATHY H. is the novel's narrator and protagonist. She reminisces about her youth, growing up in an institution, Hailsham --- a sham of an institution. For Hailsham imposes, we learn as we read through the novel, through subtle manipulation, the ultimate hell upon its occupants. That they, as human clones, are considered inferior to those who are not cloned. They must accept the responsibility to sacrifice themselves, their very lives, as, perhaps, for a while, "carers", and, ultimately, as "donors" by giving up needed vital organs --- their hearts, their lungs, their livers, etc. --- to humans who are not cloned. So Kathy H. as a young girl and adolescent interacts at Hailsham with her friends, Ruth and Tommy D., who then ultimately remain with her beyond Hailsham. In essence, it is Kathy H. who never lets Tommy D. and Ruth go.

Ishiguro nicely sketches out these three characters with unique features and intertwines them. While some in the group found the premise unrealistic, in my situation I found it compelling, thought-provoking, moving.

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