BOOK REVIEW: After by Nikki Gemmell

The Blurb (from Goodreads):

Australia's bravest and most honest writer explores the devastating aftermath of her elderly mother's decision to end her own life.

Nikki Gemmell's world changed forever in October 2015 when the body of her elderly mother was found and it became clear she had decided to end her own life. After the immediate shock and devastation came the guilt and the horror, for Nikki, her family, relatives and friends. No note was left, so the questions that Elayn's death raised were endless. Was the decision an act of independence or the very opposite? Was it a desperate act driven by hopelessness and anger, or was her euthanasia a reasoned act of empowerment?

After is the story of Elayn Gemmell - and the often difficult, prickly relationship between mothers and daughters, and how that changes over time. As anguished as it truthful, as powerful as it is profound, After is about life, death, elderly parents, mothers and daughters, hurt and healing, and about how little, sometimes, we know the ones we love the most.

A deeply intimate, fiercely beautiful, blazingly bold and important book

My Thoughts:

The best memoir I read in recent months is definitely After by Nikki Gemmell. A searingly honest memoir, she began writing it the day after her mother quietly decided to end her own life rather than endure any more pain. She left no note, no farewell letter, no written explanation. The book explores Nikki’s anguish and guilt, which largely arises from her tumultuous relationship with her strong-willed and opiniated mother, and also from the trauma of the police investigation and the lack of a chance to say goodbye. After also explores the moral dilemmas of the right to choose the time and place of one’s demise, a very timely exploration given the continuing battle for the right to death movement in Australia. The writing is fierce and intimate, and breathtaking in its bravery. 

‘The grief is not over, it will never be over. It still trips me up in unexpected moments, stumbling me all over again …But the moving forward is stronger, swifter now; the seam of melancholy more hidden. Yes, climbing back into the world.’

Highly recommended.

You might also like my review of The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls:

BOOK REVIEW: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

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Kate Forsyth
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