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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
On Love and Death and Belonging by Daphne Wright is a story told in vignettes and revolving around three characters, Fiona, Brice, and Adelina. Brice, diagnosed with ALS, grapples with daily struggles, including a weakening body and emotional turmoil. Fiona, a medical professional, reflects on her encounters with Brice and other ALS patients during her demanding shifts, where staff are underpaid and overworked despite the importance of what they do. Adelina, navigating her own life challenges, is deeply impacted by the ALS aspect when she encounters Brice and reflects on the implications of the disease. As the stories progress, Wright evolves the focus to Medical Assistance in Dying, societal attitudes toward it, and its implications for those dealing with ALS, as the lives of three unique individuals converge.
On Love and Death and Belonging by Daphne Wright is a deep and intentionally thought-provoking novel that puts the personal and equally controversial right to die with dignity at the forefront of three character arcs. I am an American living in Europe, where voluntary assisted dying for those with debilitating terminal illnesses is legal in certain countries, but I have not actually read a book where the storyline pulls together the patient, carers, and staff and equally explores their perspectives and lives. The writing itself is well done, and Wright addresses the situations of characters beyond their work with authenticity and compassion, allowing Fiona and Adelina to be developed in their own right alongside Brice. There are some moments of levity, like shopping for a “gay urn,” which, apparently, is a thing, to juxtapose with the more heartbreaking scenes. The conclusion is bittersweet, and Wright leaves a little to the imagination, making for a story that puts the finale in the hands and minds of readers. Very highly recommended.