Amanda Schecter is a young American gymnast. Much to the annoyance of those who compete with her, every routine she tackles turns out perfectly – until one day, for no apparent reason, she stumbles and falls from the high beam. This mistake costs Amanda her life, though significantly, the reader is not told the exact cause of death. After a period of grieving, her bereaved parents decide to donate her organs for transplantation. The rest of this provocative novel tells the tale of the organ recipients.
Dani is 15 years old. Born with a displaced heart, she has not led a normal life and by now is almost unable to leave her bed. Wendy is six. She needs a new kidney. 16-year-old Milo is awaiting his second liver transplant.
The essence of this book is the psychological introspection of those involved in the transplant process. Amanda’s surviving brother, Tyler, must learn to engage with his late sister in an entirely new way. The narrative also includes the spiritual relationships established between the recipients and the deceased donor. Amanda’s parents do not acquiesce to the donation without a sense of shock and resentment.
Survivor guilt haunts the recipients, not least Milo. He has already received one donated liver, sourced from a father of two who died in a road traffic accident. Wanting to remain a typical teenager, Milo drank alcohol and neglected his medication. Predictably the implanted liver failed. Does he really deserve another chance? Dani, violating protocol, discovers the identity of her donor. Does she deserve an organ harvested from someone as accomplished as Amanda?
The moral terrain embraced by this novel is immense, embracing the transience of human life, illness and death, guilt, fairness and randomness and varying manifestations of grief. Despite these apparently sombre themes, reading this book is a surprisingly uplifting experience. ‘No man is an Island entire of it self…’