I recently read Should We Stay or Should We Go by Lionel Shriver.
I'm a huge fan of Lionel Shriver's fictions and when I knew that she recently had a new novel published, I had to get it. The fiction is about Kay and Cyril Wilkinson, a married couple who are both healthy and vital medical professionals in their early fifties. After seeing too many of their elderly patients in the NHS in similar states of decay, they devise a plan to die with dignity when they have both turned eighty.
In the story, Kay watched how her own father's mental health deteriorating before he passed on. By the time her father died, she could not cry but only had a sense of relief. Cyril proposes that they will swallow some pills and kill themselves when they both turn eighty. The idea is they do not wish to burden the state, namely the National Health Services nor their grown up children.
Here are a couple of excerpts:
'He continued to track the steady rise of life expectancy in a spirit of dismay. " In news reports about our 'ageing population,"he pointed out over chicken pot pie, " presenters no sooner mention increased longevity than immediately add,' which is a good thing, of course!' The aside is compulsive. But it's not a good thing! We're not living for longer. We're dying for longer!"'
Cyril laments about the increase in NHS budget due to inflation cost and medical services for the aged.
'"People our age," he observed whilst the couple were still in their mid-sixties, " cost the service twice as much as the average thirty-year-old. But by eighty-five, that differential is five to one ! Five times as much dosh to keep alive some old coot who slumps half-asleep in front of Come Dine with Me all afternoon, compared to a taxpayer with young children who can still have a laugh on a fine day out and play a spot of footie." '
Amidst contemporary issues involving Brexit, mass migration and the coronavirus, the author portrays twelve parallel universes, each exploring a possible future for the Wilkinsons from spending senior years in a retirement home to discovering a cure for aging and cryogenic preservation. The subject matter is grave but the writer has peppered her writings with some humour and wit.
Lionel Shrivel's prose is thought-provoking, relevant and contemporary.