February 14, 2015

Book Review - By My Side by Alice Peterson

Cassandra Brooks has a good life, living with her fellow medical student boyfriend, studying hard and playing hard. One morning she goes out to buy breakfast and is hit by a car, becoming a paraplegic and confined to a wheelchair. This is the story of how she copes and eventually re-fashions a life. One that is very different to the one she had hoped for. Whilst the story is a little sugar coated and 'white bread' , it is not sentimental and it does cover the depression and frustration of young healthy people suddenly stopped by an instant's misfortune and now having to cope not only with a whole new world of medical necessities to get through ordinary daily living tasks but also access difficulties  and discrimination when out in the world. The novel showcases the marvelous work of two UK charities, Canine Partners, which helps disabled people enjoy a better quality of life by providing specially trained assistance dogs and the Back Up Trust, which provides adventure opportunities for disabled people. Cass is lucky to have a supportive family with the means to help her and when she is partnered with Ticket, the golden Labrador, her life with him by her side does get a little easier. Finding love with Ticket and finding a measure of acceptance and courage, Cass gets on with life.  The message in this book is very well integrated into the story and Cass and her surrounding circles of family, pre-accident friends and post-accident rehab buddies, are well drawn.  The author has done her research and married it with empathy and compassion. Many years ago, my brother became a paraplegic as a young man and faced similar trials to Cass. I shed tears over this book, some for Cass and her family and some in memory of my brother and for my family.

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