A review by Nalini Haynes
Evan is assisting Teddy to exercise his right to die with dignity, avoiding the last weeks of increasing pain and degenerative illness. Legislation has passed, allowing determined terminally ill patients to elect euthanasia but the protocols are strict, cameras are rolling and Evan spills the Nembutal. There will be consequences.
His mother, Viv, has Parkinson’s. She’s in a retirement home looking at the last stretch after expensive surgery failed to improve her condition. Then, suddenly, she gets her spark back. First she’s an unholy terror then she disappears.
Meanwhile, Evan has a romance with a gay couple, Lon and Simon, but his intimacy issues drive him away.
These three story threads are entwined throughout the novel — not unlike Evan, Lon and Simon when in bed together — engaging the reader on many levels at once.
Amsterdam’s experience as a palliative care nurse provides a rare deep-seated realism to this speculative fiction literature drama. I studied grief management as an undergraduate and post-graduate, interned as a grief counselor in a palliative care unit, counseled people in related situations and have been in a palliative care ward as a family member of a terminally ill cancer patient (my mother-in-law). On this basis I applaud Amsterdam’s attention to detail, his courage in delving into the issues of death and dying, and his honesty.
Gay sex and its broader appeal
Although The Easy Way Out is not the first novel I’ve read with a gay romance or gay sex, this is the first time I saw the appeal of reading other-gender sex scenes.
Some of the key moments in Evan’s life are related to sex: sex that is fulfilling, taking a moment to look in a mirror, sex that is unsatisfying… each of these is a step on his hero’s journey.
The Easy Way Out is captivating and profound although concise. I highly recommend The Easy Way Out to caregivers and those cared for; anyone with a difficult aging parent; and everyone who enjoys romance. The Easy Way Out will be recommended reading for university humanities courses and, as a masterpiece, is deserving of awards.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Format: paperback, 272 pages