The Easy Way Out – Steven Amsterdam

A wickedly funny novel about life’s saddest moments, The Easy Way Out explores the issues of assisted suicide and the right to die, from an author nominated for the Guardian First Book Award

Evan is a nurse, a suicide assistant. His job is legal – just. He’s the one at the hospital who hands out the last drink to those who ask for it. Evan’s friends don’t know what he does during the day. His mother, Viv, doesn’t know what he’s up to at night. And his supervisor suspects there may be trouble ahead. As he helps one patient after another die, Evan pushes against the limits of the law – and his own morality. And with Viv increasingly unwell, his love life complicated, to say the least, Evan begins to wonder who might be there for him, when the time comes . . .

From an award-winning author, The Easy Way Out is a brilliantly funny and exquisitely sad novel that gets to the heart of one of the most difficult questions each of us may face: would you help someone die?

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Easy Way Out really hit home with me the moment I read the description. I will say upfront that this book isn’t for everyone. The core theme is really quite intense. The Easy Way Out discusses death, or more importantly assisted dying and the right to choose a dignified end.
easywayoutThis is a subject I feel strongly on, as many do, so in reading this book it really resonated strongly with me. I have seen a few too many family members battling illness and losing. When disease is involved, the end is rarely quick, painless and dignified.

Steven Amsterdam handles the subject of his book with great care and dignity, though. It follows male nurse Evan, or to give him his other title, suicide assistant. He works in a hospital, as part of a trial project into assisted death for the terminally ill. The Easy Way Out is a heart-wrenching book in its no holds barred approach to the journey it maps out.

From very early on, we are confronted with the idea of our own mortality, meeting a middle-aged gentleman suffering terminal cancer, along with his wife and daughters. The book introduces the author’s own notion of how the process of dignified death would work. Nobody can be led to the decision, they must first voluntarily express their desire to die to their physician. They they must go through a battery of psychiatric testing, followed by meeting your assigned assistant.

Evan presides over the married father’s appointment, running through the legal procedures required to ensure the patient is fully aware and consenting of the process, while dealing with the swirling torrent of emotions from the family. From fully supportive, to desperate desire for the patient to change their mind and everything between, the family finally come back around to the best decision for the patient.

This opening event shows the trauma involved with the decision, even knowing that the situation is terminal no matter what. We also get to know Evan’s background, with a father that committed suicide and a mother dealing with a degenerative and ultimately terminal condition. Each subsequent suicide Evan helps with is a test of his morals. The patients vary in age and background, running the gamut; old to young; male to female; wealthy or less so.

A change in his job situation leads to him working for a ‘voluntary’ organisation acting as a friend for those choosing to die. Following a few meetings with patients, one leads to him questioning his morals and the whole situation. Throw in his mother’s condition and Evan needs to do some soul searching. Reading this book, Amsterdam clearly shows that choosing when to die is anything but the easy way out.

Given the delicacy of the subject, The Easy Way Out is a fantastic book, sprinkled with dark humour, and certainly leads to a lot of soul searching and is highly thought provoking. As previously mentioned, this is a subject the resonates with me. The idea of choosing a dignified end that is ultimately what we choose it to be, at our chosen moment is one that I think we should be able to pick. Stephen Amsterdam has created a deep, yet wonderful book here that really makes you sit up and think about morality and mortality. And right at the end of everything it asks us all one very divisive, intense question: would you help those you love to die if it ended their suffering? I know my answer.

The Easy Way Out will be published on 3rd November 2016

My rating:

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