"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." — Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Monday, August 23, 2010

God Is in the Pancakes by Robin Epstein

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Summary: Teenager Grace is struggling with bigger issues than just a typical teenager in this well-written story.

Grace Manning enjoys her job as a candy striper at Hanover House. It gets her out of the house – which has been no fun at all since her dad left her mom – earns her a little money, and Grace loves her time with Mr. Sands. He teaches her cards, laughs at her jokes and is a really good friend to her.
In fact, they’re so close that one day Mr. Sands asks Grace to help him die.

He gives her an envelope of pills and asks her to make him pancakes with the pills crushed up. They will just put him to sleep and it will end his suffering. And it’s medicine he’s already taking, so nobody will be surprised when he has the medicine in his system.

Grace thinks it’s a joke. Maybe a test from the nursing home staff. Mr. Sands can’t really be serious. Plus, he can walk and talk, which makes the request to die seem an overreaction.

Then one day, Grace is turned away from Mr. Sands’ room. He’s having trouble breathing and Grace is concerned. She talks to the head of Hanover House and finds out that Mr. Sands has ALS – Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) – and he will have trouble swallowing and breathing on his own. Eventually, even the machines won’t be able to help.

Grace recognizes that Mr. Sands was serious about wanting Grace to help him die. Mr. Sands only has a painful lingering death ahead of him if Grace doesn’t do it. But how can she?

Grace wants to share all that’s going on with her best friend Eric, but he’s busy with the basketball team. Also, things have been kinda weird between them lately and Grace doesn’t want to force the issue in case she makes Eric leave her like her dad left her mom, but how can she tell Eric she might actually kill a friend?

On another visit to Mr. Sands’ room, she is turned away again while a nurse clears his lungs of fluid. While Grace is furiously ranting in the bathroom over the unfairness of God causing the, she meets Isabelle. Isabella teases her out of her bad mood and then they discover they are going to the same room – Mr. Sands’ room. Isabelle is Frank Sands’ wife, but because she’s much healthier than he is, she lives in a different building at Haven house, one with no nurses.

Isabelle and Grace develop their own friendship but Grace never mentions the pills stuffed in her backpack to Isabelle or to Mr. Sands. What could she do? What can she say?

Then, during a study session for their history midterm, Eric and Grace suddenly kiss. This was one of the most spontaneous, realistic and romantic scenes written, and I read a lot of romance novels.

One friend kissed her, one friend is dying, and Grace keeps sending her father’s calls to voice mail.
“ I want everything to be okay. I want Mr. Sands to be healthy. I want things to be normal with Eric. I don’t want to fail biology. I want to be prettier. I want to be able to speed read. I want world peace. I never want to get a zit again. I want to be able to eat anything I want and not gain weight. I want to be talented at something. I want to know if Isabelle will be okay if I help Mr. Sands. I want to smell nice all the time. I want my dad to apologize for leaving. And then I want him to come back and stay. I want to live happily ever after. And I don’t want to have to think about these things."
I loved this book. The writing seemed authentic, the way an actual modern teen would think and write. The issues were believable and the ending plausible.

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