I thought One Minute Later by Susan Lewis was going to be a thriller.
I’ve seen it described as an emotionally gripping thriller. I don’t think I’d use the word thriller to describe this book. Emotional, yes. Thriller….not so much.
From the back
You think your life is perfect.
You think your secrets are safe.
You think it’ll always be this way.
But your life can change in a heartbeat.
With a high-flying job, a beautiful apartment and friends whose lives are as happy as her own, Vivienne Shager is living the dream. Then, on the afternoon of Vivi’s twenty-seventh birthday, one catastrophic minute changes everything.
Forced to move back to the small seaside town where she grew up, Vivi remembers the reasons she left. The secrets, lies and questions that now must be answered before it’s too late. But the answers lie in thirty years in the past…
Shelley Raynor’s family home, Deerwood Farm, has always been a special place until darkness strikes at its heart. When Vivi’s and Shelley’s worlds begin to entwine, it only takes a moment for the truth to unravel all of their lives.
After reading that blurb again, I think I can be forgiven for expecting a tense thriller.
It’s safe to say I was surprised by Susan Lewis with this one; repeatedly.
I am going to include some spoilers in this post as Lewis highlights an incredibly important issue in this book, I can’t talk about it without explaining away some of the storyline so, you’ve been warned.
To begin with, it felt a bit like reading multiple different stories in one. The first half of the novel alternated chapters between Vivi and Shelley; Vivi’s story in the present day and Shelley’s 30 years earlier. Half way through Shelley’s story disappears and Vivi takes all the narrative
The catastrophic minute on Vivi’s 27th birthday sees her suffer a huge cardiac arrest, she’s left with terminal condition, Vivi will need a heart transplant within a year if she’s to live a long, life.
Her life intertwines with Shelley’s when Vivi meets her son Josh and falls in love with him, knowing they’re on borrowed time.
It’s this part of the story that is the strongest and most interesting as it delves into organ donation and what it’s like to live on the transplant waiting list.
The guilt Vivi feels knowing someone else has to die for her to live, the utter hopelessness of knowing that the call you need may actually never come and if it does it may not work out.
She and Josh become determined to help a young man called Jim Lynskey to raise awareness of the need to sign the register and more importantly, discuss you wishes with your loved ones.
Since this book was written the opt out system has become law in the UK, so all adults are presumed to have agreed to be an organ donor. However, your loved ones will still be involved in discussions before donation takes place, so, yeah if that’s what you want, it’s worth being clear on that.
There’s still a shortage of donors in this country, last year 408 people died on the waiting list, Susan Lewis has shown what that desperate wait is like through Vivi and Jim Lynskey, who is real person, who worked on this book and was one the youngest person in the UK to fitted with a mechanical heart pump.
Jim started the Save9lives campaign he passed away in 2019, his family now campaign in his memory. The slogan save 9 lives comes from the fact that you save or enhance at least nine lives if you’ve agreed to donate your organs.
It was this part of the story that interested me most, it was the most thought-provoking part and the story I was most invested in and the story that kept me reading because to be honest, there was an awful lot going on in this book, a lot that I wasn’t really fussed about.
I took me a long time to see how Vivi and Shelley were going to come together and what the secrets of 30 years ago were and to be honest though it read as though that was the main driver of the plot for two thirds of the book (I had feared a massive ick factor at one point) I just wasn’t bothered by it.
The tag line of the truth can change everything is misleading, it suggests secrets that tear lives apart and that doesn’t happen. I just can’t work out why One Minute Later has been marketed this way – it’s bizarre.
There were parts I was annoyed by. Shelley’s chapters at Deerwood farm felt a little bit too idyllic and cheesy in places and I was willing this novel to get to the point.
This is a book that may feel slow in places, it may feel like there is a bit too much happening that feels forced together in the end, but it is worth a read.At its heart is an important and moving message that mixes fiction with reality – if you do get chance find out more about Jim Lynskey and his campaign here
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