Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
John Grant. When they form a relationship, and move in together, pressure from others causes them to doubt what they have together. After being apart, the two find that maybe they are stronger together. That what they first perceive as a hostile place isn’t necessarily one.
I was really looking forward to this book because one of the main characters has cerebral palsy. As a teacher who has had students with cerebral palsy, as well as the friend of an adult with cerebral palsy, I know how misunderstood and sometimes isolating the disease can be. That being said, this fairly short book missed the mark in many ways for me.
Let’s start with the very beginning, when John is describing the meeting in the hospital between himself and William. William not only has a chest infection but also has cerebral palsy (CP). “… a brain disease for which there is no known cause nor cure…” While it is understood there is no cure for CP, there is a known cause, which is “a brain injury or brain malformation that occurs while the brain is developing – before, during or after birth”. This definition is the same whether you look at cerebralpalsy.org, the Center for Disease Control, National Institute of Health, etc etc. While John admits he got his information from the Internet, I’m not sure where that came from. He also mentions, “Luckily, William’s condition was comparatively slight. He could walk with the aid of crutches, though his muscular coordination was sometimes uncontrollable, and even if his speech was a little indistinct and slurred, I was able to understand him.” Okay, sounds right.
Yet then it turns out William was in a nursing home previous to being in the hospital and once he moves in with John he has carers come in that literally do things like help him with pajamas and put him to bed. “Basically all this consisted of was changing William into pajamas after the briefest of washes and tucking him into his hospital bed.” It didn’t seem to fit, particularly when later William is able to sneak out of John’s high bed, cross over to his own room, get his own undies on and get into his own bed without the carer in the next room being aware. All this yet he needs someone to tuck him into bed?
There is a lot of talk about whether a disabled person such as William is considered competent enough to have a relationship with a more able-bodied person such as John. Again, he is supposed to be cognitively unimpaired, so I didn’t understand this. A little speech issue would not make someone incompetent.
For his part, John like being with William but has a temper issue. I understood it when John was so angry at the teenagers mocking William but his response was over the top. There is a plot point of John being attacked that seems pivotal and then goes nowhere. There is an event that happens after William sees the doctor that made me go back and reread the chapters previous, trying to figure out if William was, in fact, deemed incompetent because he is certainly treated as if he is.
The connection between the two wasn’t strong enough for me to overlook the other issues of the story. We are told William loves John but I didn’t see it much. To be fair, the story is told from John’s point of view, so we don’t get William’s side as much. So, as much as I was hoping to like this story, it didn’t work as well as I’d hoped. This is the first book I’ve read by this author and I would try another of his works.
The cover, showing William in a wheelchair looking upset, fit the feel of the story.
Kindle Edition, 51 pages
Published March 29th 2019 by MLR Press