Tuesday, January 20, 2015
REVIEW: The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell
This is the story of Japanese teenager, Sora. Sora is 17 and has been diagnosed with a progressive neurodegenerative disease called ALS (or Lou Gehrig's disease). This means that over time, he will begin to lose control of his muscles and limbs which will eventually lead to death. He lives at home with his mother and already there have been major changes to his life and to his mother's because of his condition. And thinking about his life and his mother's and what will happen to them both is something that Sora thinks about quite a lot.
Being sort of isolated from other people his age, Sora turns to the internet and finds two things. First, he meets some friends that he's able to talk and joke with that know nothing about his ALS and they are able to connect with him over normal, teenage things. And second, he receives these anonymous emails about suicide and the growing population of people in Japan who contemplate and/or commit suicide. Which makes Sora start to ponder the idea and how others historically have deal with great challenges. A lot of my favourites aspects in the first half of this book is Sora discovering the poetry of wounded samurai which I found incredibly fascinating.
I think the thing I loved the most about this book though is Sora's relationships with the people in his life. Probably especially the one with his mother. There are some really difficult scenes between them: things difficult to witness in Sora's worsening condition and also some really raw and powerful and emotional scenes between a mother and son who love each other a great deal. Sora and his mom KILLED ME especially in the second half of the book. But I also really loved Sora's friendship with these two people he meets online. I love that he's able to make some great friendships in which ALS is not at the forefront of every conversation and activity.
I think The Last Leaves Falling is an incredible debut book. So very emotional and powerful and ultimately hopeful. I love that it's a book set in Japan and that it focuses so much on friendships and family. This is a beautiful book, one that I hope you'll go out immediately and read. I recommend it.