Priscille Sibley, the author of THE PROMISE OF STARDUST, is a neonatal intensive care nurse, and her medical knowledge --- not to mention her compassion for her patients and their families --- shines through every word of her first novel.
Like Sibley herself, protagonist Matt Beaulieu is a medical professional. Matt is a young doctor at a large hospital in Portland, Maine. When his own wife arrives as a patient in the ER --- she has suffered a bad fall off a ladder, with significant head trauma --- Matt starts out by using his medical knowledge to help compartmentalize the horror and helplessness of what's unfolding before him. His beautiful, brilliant wife Elle --- so strong that she's run marathons and even gone into space as an astronaut on the space shuttle --- is in a persistent vegetative state, and even with all the medical knowledge and tools at his disposal, neither Matt nor anyone else can save her.
"THE PROMISE OF STARDUST is tailor-made for great discussions. Be prepared, though, for heated political conversations as the novel addresses both right-to-die and anti-abortion issues head-on. But there are also plenty of interpersonal topics to explore, as readers can consider and discuss what they would do if they or a loved one faced a similarly impossible decision."
Elle, whose own mother died after a long and painful battle with cancer, has always said in no uncertain terms that she would never want to be kept on life support. She even signed an advanced directive to that effect when she was a very young woman. But now that he faces that situation, Matt learns one piece of information that might change everything --- Elle is eight weeks pregnant.
Matt and Elle had tried to have a baby before, but multiple miscarriages and one stillbirth had marred their hopes for a family. Now, though, the autoimmune disorder that had kept Elle from carrying a child to term has been addressed, and there's every reason to hope that, as long as life support is able to maintain Elle's body, she can bring her and Matt's child into the world. But Matt will encounter plenty of resistance, both in and out of court, as he fights to save his unborn child --- including not only from Elle's former fiancé but also from Matt's own mother, a nurse herself.
Sibley's first novel doesn't shy away from addressing pretty big and certainly controversial issues. She breaks up the intensity of the courtroom scenes by giving readers glimpses of Matt and Elle's long history together; next-door neighbors, they have known and loved each other since they were children. Matt is certainly a consummate professional, but at times his tendency to fall back on medical analyses of Elle's condition can make the book seem less emotionally immediate. As readers come to know Elle, however, both through Matt's memories and through her own journal entries, they undeniably will be touched by her story and by Matt's courageous attempts to seize any hope he can find, however small.
THE PROMISE OF STARDUST is tailor-made for great discussions. Be prepared, though, for heated political conversations as the novel addresses both right-to-die and anti-abortion issues head-on. But there are also plenty of interpersonal topics to explore, as readers can consider and discuss what they would do if they or a loved one faced a similarly impossible decision.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on February 7, 2013
The Promise of Stardust