All Those Ways Of Leaving – Nick Earls
Suggested Audience: YA – Adults
Page Count: 54
Publication: 2012 (Read Via iBooks)
As she lies in her hospital bed sucking on her hair, upping her morphine and trying not to screech at her mother who is trying to be helpful but is only causing frustration, Shelly contemplates her past and the number of ways she has left various stages of her life as well as all the things she's done that make all the things she'll never do–like have a proper mid-life crisis–slightly more tolerable.
“You are leaving a molecule at a time. You’ve warned him of that now. You are leaving by allowing your abilities to lapse and slip away uncontested, one by one.
It’s night and sometimes you’re asleep and sometimes you’re awake, and you’re dreaming up ways of leaving. You are swelling muscles and striding out, as though this has never happened. You are leaving from the roof by a hang-glider that’s been waiting for you there all this time. You are leaving in a cab, the cab that took you home legless last Melbourne Cup, six days before you stopped being perfectly healthy.”
(Excerpt From: Earls, Nick. “All Those Ways of Leaving.” This material may be protected by copyright.)
Given my own family history with the absolute hell that is cancer as well as my experience of Nick Earl's exceptional skills as an author, as i began reading All Those Ways Of Leaving, I fully expected that I would need to put the novel down at some point, so difficult and emotional it is to read of a patient dying from cancer.
For this reason, I expected that I wouldn't like or enjoy this short story, but such is my love of Nick Earls' writing that I chose to give it a try anyway.
I am grateful for persevering despite the challenging topic. Shelly is the kind of character I think we all hope we would be should be ever be faced with such adversity. She has an inner voice that is both familiar and distanced from the reader, making her simultaneously a likeable and mysterious protagonist who you cheer on with every turn of the page. I read out sections of this short story to my mother (who has had her own battles with cancer) and she laughed and cried, saying how much she identified with Shelly's voice and feelings.
For a short story, I was entranced by how cleverly Nick Earls paints a picture which is so detailed without the need for many words; In 54 pages, he manages to create what some authors struggle to portray in a trilogy. I think part of the magic was the way he uses second person narration as a way to connect the reader with the protagonists journey. I think it's fair to say that most adults have some experience of cancer or other life threatening illness, and it's Nick Earls' use of the second person that forces the reader to delve into the uncomfortable memories, feelings and emotions and reconnect with these again.
I strongly recommend this short story to anyone looking for a quick but emotionally-stirring read.
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