Tuesday, February 9, 2010

(13) Irreplaceable by Stephen Lovely

Organ donation. It has the potential to be a very hot button issue. Some people sign the card without a second thought. For others, religious beliefs or the sheer terror of leaving earth without all of the parts they had when they arrived on earth prevent them from donating their organs. No matter which side of the fence you fall on, the topic is sure to generate passionate conversation.

In his debut novel, Irreplaceable, Stephen Lovely tackles the controversial topic from all sides of the story.

From the woman who is tragically killed during a bicycle ride on a warm spring day, to her husband & mother. The grief of the loved ones she left behind is palpable through the pages. The reader also gets to meet Janet, the recipient of Isabel's heart and her family. You get to see how a life threatening illness have strained their lives. And finally there is Jasper, the man who hit Isabel that fateful day. His life has rapidly deteriorated since that day that has forever connected all of these people.

Organ donation is a subject near and dear to my heart. My Uncle Tom's live was saved more than once due to the kindess of people who believed in organ donation. In fact my own mother gave him her kidney many years ago. It was interesting for me to read about the view from the other side of the operating table. The topic can be controversial and for that reason alone, Stephen Lovely has written the perfect book for Book Clubs all across America. It is guaranteed to generate passionate and engaged conversations.

With that being said, I am lucky to have Mr. Lovely agree to answer a few questions for my blog.

1. Mr. Lovely, thank you so much for agreeing to answer a few questions for me. May I start by asking what book are you reading now?

I always seem to be reading a few different books at one time, and rarely finishing anything. I just read a short story by Chekhov called “Lady With Lapdog.” It’s one of Chekhov’s most famous stories, and I love it more every time I read it. It’s amazing and comforting to realize that people were living through the same difficulties regarding their marriages and personal relationships a hundred years ago as they are now. Also, so much fiction is about adultery! Without it we’d lose Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, and countless others. Chekhov is such a poised, lucid writer, and so smart. I’m also reading a collection of articles on the Psychology of Love, which is part of the research I’m doing for my second novel.

2. Organ Donation is such a personal topic, how did you come to write about the topic?

I was working at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, and a boy came in who had been hit by a car, and who was brain dead. It was a terrible event. His brave, shaken parents made the decision to donate his organs, and I got to thinking about where those organs might go, and about the various relationships that might be created by their voyages into other peoples’ bodies. I wondered how the recipient of a donated organ would feel toward the donor, and the donor’s family, and vice versa. I knew there was a person out there somewhere who had killed this boy, either accidentally or recklessly, and I wondered how that person would feel if he or she knew that the boy’s organs had been transplanted. All in all it just seemed like a situation that would create some very new and interesting relationships between the people involved.

3.Is there anyone in your life that has been touched by the gift of Organ Donation?

No, no one I know personally, although I did interview many people who were waiting for a heart transplant, and people who received donated hearts, in the course of doing research for the novel.

4. You must have done extensive research about the topic of organ donation. Did your research influence your personal beliefs about organ donation?

I’m not sure my research specifically influenced my views on organ donation, but certainly the experience of writing the book, and thinking deeply about the issues, and considering the event from different people’s perspectives, did affect my views. I began the book with a very positive view about organ donation, and while I still have a positive view – donating one’s organs is a brave, selfless act – I am more able to understand differing views, and the reasons, both cultural and emotional, behind them.

5. Irreplaceable covers all sides of organ donation. Which character do you identify with the most?

I suppose I identify most with Alex, since he’s a guy, like me, and is about the age I was when working on the novel. He and I share a few attributes, and many of his experiences—where he lives, where he works, where he walks with his dog—are drawn from mine. But I feel very close to all of the characters, especially Bernice, for whom I have the most affection.

6. What do you want readers to take away most from your story?

I hope readers finish the novel with affection for my characters, or at least some of my characters, despite their flaws and questionable decisions, and that readers take away a more thorough understanding of all the issues and complexities of organ transplantation and the kinds of relationships it can create.

7. Thank you so much for your time. May I ask what you are working on now and when can we expect it in the stores?

I’m working on a second novel. It takes place in the on-line dating industry. When will it be in stores? I’m a slow writer. IRREPLACEABLE took me over 10 years to finish. I hope to finish my second novel in less time. With any luck...2016? Thanks for your patience!

Irreplaceable is available in paperback starting today, you can look for it at any bookstore.


Mary said...

I read Lovely's book almost as soon as it was available. I was particularly interested because I live in Iowa and Lovely went to the Iowa Writer's Workshop and my parents made the decision to donate my brother's organs when he died very suddenly from a brain aneurysm. I could very much relate to the gratitude felt by the recipient. My family was able to meet the man who rec'd my brother's heart.He and his family overwhelmed us w/their gratitude. It was a great comfort to us to know that parts of Tom were still alive out there helping other people live their lives. I don't believe that any member of my family felt resentful about my brother having to die for others to live. Lovely's perspective was something that never crossed my mind but was very compelling none the less.

Charlotte's Web of Books said...

Mary, where in Iowa do you live? I was also interested in the book because I am from Iowa & most of my family still lives there.

Organ Donation, to me is the ultimate gift. Having a family member being on the receiving end, the gratitude felt goes beyond anything I have ever felt before.

Thanks to you & your family for being willing to give that gift.

Mary said...

I live in Cedar Rapids and have most of my adult life. I grew up in Minneapolis and most of my family still lives there.

Charlotte's Web of Books said...

I grew up in SW Iowa, close to Omaha, but two of my brothers live in the Des Moines area.

Why I Read...

I remember the carefree summer days when I used to ride my bike to the public library to pick out new books. I would go almost daily to find books to read. I read to learn. I read to explore the world. I read to escape. I read because not reading is not an option.

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