I’ll Leave You With This by Kylie Ladd is the second book I’ve read by the Melbourne-based author and I very much enjoyed 2017’s The Way Back. Ladd brings her experience and expertise as a psychologist in the health system to the table when writing. Here she’s talking about organ donation and legacies of the very tangible kind as well as those less-so.
I sometimes struggle reading books about organ donation as it’s something my family has first-hand experience with, as my father was the recipient of a heart transplant… aged 61 in 2000. I certainly know how someone else’s* generosity benefitted my family – giving my father 11 more years. But am also aware of some of the burden it brings. The guilt, gratitude and fear that can accompany it. And of course I can only imagine the bittersweet impact it has on donors’ families. Seeing ‘part’ of their loved ones’ live on in others.I’ll Leave You With This
by Kylie Ladd
Published by Michael Joseph
Source: Penguin Random House Australia
Genres: General Fiction
The O’Shea sisters couldn’t be more different.
Allison, an obstetrician, has always put others before herself and is torn between her job and young family.
Prizewinning film director Bridie hasn’t had work in over a decade, though her actor husband is on the brink of stardom.
Clare, desperate for a baby, is bereft when her wife leaves her after their latest IVF failure.
And Emma, the youngest, has turned to God to fill the aching loneliness in her life.
When their only brother Daniel is killed the four women drift even further apart…
Then, on the third anniversary of Daniel's death, Clare proposes an idea: they should trace the many recipients saved by his donated organs. Perhaps their brother's gift of life can bring them back together again?
Ladd opens this book with gravitas and impact as we journey to lunch with Daniel. He’s buoyed by a huge career opportunity awaiting him when he hears gunshots. It’s shocking and the dichotomy Ladd offers up is confronting but successfully reminds us how fleeting life can be and how fickle death is.
We then move forward three years to meet each of Daniel’s sisters. It’s Clare, just coming out of a break-up who decides that finding the recipients of her brother’s organs will give the family the closure they need.
This interested me as the identity of donors and recipients is something health service coordinators protect with vigour. We heard stories of recipients being impacted on learning they’d been given organs of people from other cultures or genders. And of recipients learning their donor was a bright young thing with loads of potential and being overcome with a sense of being unworthy of their ‘gift’. So… fraught.
Interestingly this is much less about organ donation than it is about family relationships. Tracking down the recipients of Daniel’s organs serves as a catalyst for the sisters to be confronted by their own various issues, and their relationships with each other. It’s a heartwarming read however, after such a sad opening. In addition to organ donation Ladd touches on a myriad of themes from fertility issues, to work/life balance, romantic relationships and friendships as well as religion and the fact faith can mean different things to different people. Ladd’s narrative is both sensitive and incisive, deftly handling topics we often avoid. I suspect it’d be a good book club read as readers might see elements of themselves in the sisters and relate to some of the challenges they’re facing in their very different lives.
I’ll Leave You With This by Kylie Ladd will be published in Australia by Penguin (Michael Joseph) in late January 2023.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.