Author: Ann Whitley-Gillen
Genre: Literary Fiction
Published By: Ann Gillen Books
This story is a story of pain, death and loss but more than that, it’s a story of hope, love, forgiveness and letting go. There is no denying the fact that one will need a box of tissues at some stages in the story but those are tears of catharsis, of healing and of relief.
James Milligan at thirty five cannot let go of the pain and loss he suffered years ago when his best friend Stephen died at eighteen in a tragic accident right in front of his eyes. He feels responsible for the death and immensely guilty, so guilty that he not able to nurture any existing relationships in his life, neither he builds new ones. His only salvation is his self acquired role of the “Shepherd” in the family run palliative care hospital for war veterans run by his family. He sits through the last moments of the terminally ill and helps ease their passage to the other world.
Then comes in Martin; a character which steals the show. Martin is a friend of James’s father who takes upon himself to alleviate the boy’s pain and help him rediscover himself and life. Being terminally ill, his zest for living is exemplary. His resolve to help James come out of his predicament and find life again is the crux of the story.
The plot to begin with seemed to be going nowhere actually. James on the surface seems like any young successful person who shuts out his family and is a work alcoholic but like onion peels, the layers came off his character and the plot too. It was intriguing till the end. Once you get through the beginning, you are caught hook, line and sinker in the story. The characters are weaved into the plot with a great ease. Kitty; the feisty sister, Janice; the mother are all well etched. Rebecca as the prospective girlfriend is enticingly portrayed; the reader can feel what she feels. The little friendships, the fairy tale romances and camaraderie blossoming in the hospital are heartening. . James’s journey of self discovery encouraged by Martin Diggs as a father figure and Ted as friend and guide is a revelation.
There are such realistic portrayals of family and the veterans that one doesn't even realize that one has become a part of it all. You feel with them, laugh with them and cry with them. You feel their pain and revel in their joy as much as you smirk on the one liners and shed tears with them, finding in their story snippets and reflections of your own pain, suffering and joy at one time or the other.