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Book DetailsISBN: 9781869713850
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Book Review: Tiny Pieces of Us by Nicky Pellegrino - Reviewed by CloggieA (22 Oct 2020)
Tiny Pieces of Us is the twelfth novel by New Zealand author, Nicky Pellegrino. Seven years earlier, when Vivi Palmer was nineteen, a heart transplant saved her life. Now, she’s a journalist at a tabloid paper, the Daily Post and, when her editor, Dan discovers she is a transplant recipient, he immediately wants to use her very personal experience to front a campaign to change the law to opt-out organ donation. Vivi writes her article.
But Dan Parker, who “reckoned it was acceptable to break rules as long as it led to an exclusive and you didn’t get caught”, then takes it further: his research uncovers the name and a photograph of the donor, a sixteen-year-old boy who died tragically in a road accident. Jamie McGrath’s mother, Grace is shocked at the flagrant disregard of privacy, but when she speaks to Vivi, her most fervent wish is to know who received those little pieces of her son, to know they are fulfilling the promising life denied him.
When Vivi meets her, she wants to be a buffer against Grace’s despair, and she promises to do what she can to track down the other five recipients, those lucky people whose lives, or sight, were saved by Grace’s consent to donate. But that proves more challenging than Vivi anticipated.
The obligatory anonymity that is characteristic of organ donation means that no details are forthcoming via official channels, but internet searches and social media produce surprising results. Online recipient forums are common. Her initial efforts find Tommy, who has one of Jamie’s kidneys, and is eager to meet Grace and to help track down other “transplant twins”. But will other recipients feel that way?
Clearly Pellegrino has done a great deal of research into her subject so that, as well as the expected feelings of gratitude and the sense of obligation to make the best of the life extension the transplant has given, she illustrates, for example, the eternal sense of good health/good life guilt that siblings of disease sufferers might feel, and the guilt those disease sufferers feel at always being the centre of the attention of parents.
But her protagonist, Vivi, who carries the bulk of the narrative, is likely to frustrate readers with her “undeserving” attitude and submission to poor treatment. While it begins with a real emotional punch, enough to bring a lump to the throat or tear to the eye, this is noticeably absent for the rest of the story, and it tends to drag a little. A moving and thought-provoking read. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Hachette Australia.
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