Should We Stay or Should We Go

Harper: HarperCollins. Jun. 2021. 288p. ISBN 9780063094246. $26.99. F
In 1991, when Kay Wilkinson’s father dies after a long decline into dementia, Kay’s husband Cyril proposes that they spare themselves, their children, and the National Health Service a similar fate by agreeing to do themselves in when they turn 80. Because Cyril is a little older than Kay, they will wait until her 80th birthday. The years fly by, and suddenly it is 2020. Kay’s birthday arrives in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which puts an end to any plans for fond farewells. Instead, the Wilkinsons prepare a favorite dinner, pour some wine, and ready the pills. Will they or won’t they go through with it? It doesn’t give much away to say that one does and one doesn’t. Because no sooner does this particular story reach its conclusion than the rug is pulled out, and a new version with a different ending presents itself. Then comes another version and another and another. Some of these scenarios are hopeful, while others are macabre.
VERDICT As an exercise in possibility--how any of us may reach old age and face death--this novel is sometimes prophetic, sometimes preposterous, but never boring.
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