In today’s post, I’m sharing my thoughts on a book due to be published at the beginning of next month. It is the first book I’ve downloaded from Netgalley, that isn’t for a blog tour, for a very long time!
The cover caught my eye, and then the synopsis grabbed my attention! I’m glad I decided to browse the site and then download a copy of this book, because I really enjoyed it.
I will disclose here and now that the book deals with some difficult themes. The protagonist suffers from significant burns after a plane crash that he later wished ended his life. He tackles chronic pain, and so his intentions are to finish what the accident started.
Death Magnanimous – Michael Martin
Genre: Literary fiction
Publication Date: 01 Jul 2023
Burned beyond recognition in an accidental fire, a prominent attorney seeking assisted suicide must decide if the life he can’t wait to end isn’t the life he’s been waiting to begin.
A criminal defense attorney known for his entertaining and effective courtroom maneuvers, Charlie Chessman was piloting his four-seat airplane on a short hop so routine he could have done it blindfolded. But something went wrong, something so fast, so unexpected, he can only remember the smells from the fire and his screams in the wreckage, pleading with his lifesavers to let him die.
After months of reconstruction and recuperation, Charlie’s mind hasn’t changed. Left with limited mobility and agility, his only option is assisted suicide, an idea his sister Renee and wife Keri roundly oppose. But with Charlie’s persistence impossible to ignore, they hire Dr. Richard Fostris, a physician who specializes in ending, rather than saving, life.
The journey begins, to the one state where assisted suicide is legal for people without terminal illnesses. The state of Texas, and a law named for the country’s foremost quality-of-life advocate, burn survivor Dax Cowart, will legally allow Charlie to make the final call. But the trip isn’t easy, and for none of the reasons Charlie expects. He didn’t expect his care at the Jacobsen Burn Center to overwhelm him with admiration and respect. He didn’t expect his wife — whose candor, confidence, and humor had sustained him — to leave. He didn’t expect to fall in love again.
He wasn’t counting on the support he and his sister would provide each others’ unsteady lives. He never dreamed a caregiver might want him dead. He didn’t think he could rediscover his passions, for the law, for his peers, for defendants in need of quality counsel. The man who had convinced himself living was too hard never dreamed dying would be even harder.
Death Magnanimous is a very personal story. It is one of the few books I have read recently that is very character driven as opposed to plot driven. However, that’s not to say that there aren’t some really good plot points in the book!
Protagonist Charlie was previously a lawyer before his accident. Some of this comes into play in the narrative. I also enjoyed how this is relevant in a slightly more subtle way. At one point in the book, there is a bit of a mystery that affects Charlie directly, and I enjoyed how it unravels. I feel its inclusion gives those who enjoy a plot driven story something to invest into and try to work out for themselves.
There are also some subtle clues about some of the characters hidden in the narrative. I can’t say I picked up on all of them, but I did note the odd peculiarity here and there… and eventually the pieces finally slotted together!
Another niche angle I enjoyed, courtesy of the protagonists links to the legal world, relate to the laws in the US surrounding treatment in his scenario. The book makes no secret of the fact that Charlie wished to be allowed to die. However, there are various laws in the US that determine if and when patients have sufficient capacity to refuse treatment. Those laws meant that Charlie was treated, against his will. The book explores the reasons that he wasn’t deemed to have capacity to refuse (burn victims suffer a lot of pain, and this is believed to cloud judgement). It also shares what variations there are to that rule in different jurisdictions. Naturally, it’s not something I’ve ever really considered before.
Death Magnanimous is a very personal story of the experiences and suffering Charlie endures after his accident. It is a story of a man trying to learn how to live his life after it has been turned upside down. He is no longer able to live independently. Any small health set back to you and I could mean death for him. Simple tasks, such as bathing, are excruciatingly painful experiences.
Charlie wants to end that suffering, and goes out of his way to explore his options that won’t implicate his family or anyone else in his decision. Through the other characters (in similar circumstances) we meet in the book, we share their struggles and see the outcome of their decisions.
Whilst the majority of the story is told from Charlie’s perspective, we have the odd chapter from other perspectives, which add depth and world-building to the peripheries of Charlie’s life. My personal preference is to read books from multiple perspectives, so I enjoyed these being interwoven into the story. They also help us see Charlie in a different light. It’s fair to say that each of the characters within the book are biased in some way (as we all are), piecing all of these together helps us get an overall more objective understanding of Charlie.
Although the book has some darker themes, there is plenty of humour and wit throughout. I found this made an excellent balance to the overall tone of the book. Generally speaking, the narrative is really easy to read. The chapters flow nicely and are a good length each.
Chapters in the book are split between two timelines. The first of these is immediately around and after the plane crash that changes Charlie’s life forever. The second perspective is also from Charlie, however, he has undergone most of his treatment after the crash and is out of hospital.
The structure of splitting these two timelines and then interspersing them with each other works really well. It would make sense of the earlier timelines chapters are a bit sporadic. Charlie wouldn’t have been lucid for quite some time after his accident. He has experienced major trauma, and so having a solid block of narrative from him at this time wouldn’t really make sense. Equally, looking at it from the other side, going back and reminiscing on those chapters helps us to understand Charlie’s perspective.
Death Magnanimous is not a book for the fainthearted.However, I think it is an important one to pick up if you are interested in the moral aspect of euthanasia and treatment… or if you enjoy a very personal character driven story.