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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Ripples From the Edge of Life by Roland Chesters is a heart-wrenching, personal tale of survival, hope, and fulfillment in the face of the most pernicious disease of the twentieth century; HIV/AIDS. Roland was a successful, mid-level government employee in a long-term relationship with his partner when he received the news that nobody ever wants: “You are HIV positive.” He had been terribly unwell for some time but never expected this diagnosis; after all, he’d only had two partners his entire life and both of those had been long-term relationships. When the doctor calmly informed him that he had two to four weeks to live and he needed to get his affairs in order, Roland’s brain went into overdrive. What follows is the story of his descent into personal hell and his subsequent recovery as an advocate and tireless champion of those with disabilities and most particularly HIV/AIDS. The book is split into three sections, with Section One telling Roland’s personal story. Section Two focuses on individuals who surrounded Roland (his partner, his doctor, his nurse, his best friends) as they discuss Roland’s illness, how it affected them and how they viewed Roland as he struggled to come to terms with his diagnosis. The final section is testimonies from other people who have had to come to terms with the concept of “living with HIV/AIDS” – their personal journeys to hell and back to recovery.
Ripples From the Edge of Life is hard to read without a tear sneaking out and dripping down your cheek. Author Roland Chesters doesn’t pull any punches when describing the hellish situations that the illnesses associated with the virus and the medicine designed to control the virus can cause to a person’s physical wellbeing, but probably more importantly to his or her emotional and mental wellbeing. This can be a difficult conversation to have but the author presents it in such a compelling, fact-based manner that it is impossible, as a reader, not to be swept up in the narrative and its suffering but more importantly to be able to celebrate the success, determination, and fortitude of those people who have been diagnosed with this pernicious disease. I particularly enjoyed the testimonies of other sufferers, especially those who lived through the early days of this disease. The lack of knowledge, empathy, and support by not just the general public but even by many in the medical community was staggering, if somewhat understandable – this thing was and is scary. The overarching theme is one of hope and love which is admirably displayed by the fact that despite living with this disease, almost all the people who gave their testimonies were committed to helping others in their situation and that can give us all hope for the future. Roland has made it his life’s mission to demystify HIV/AIDS, to support those who are living with the disease, and to share his incredible optimism and humanity with all. This book makes a powerful contribution to HIV/AIDS literature and it is a fantastic read. I can highly recommend it.