Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Nicky Pellegrino - Tiny Pieces of Us

Vivi Palmer knows what it's like to live life carefully. Born with a heart defect, she was given a second chance after a transplant, but has never quite dared to make the most of it. Until she comes face-to-face with her donor's mother, Grace, who wants something in return for Vivi's second-hand heart: her help to find all the other people who have tiny pieces of her son.

Reluctantly drawn into Grace's mission, Vivi's journalist training takes over as one by one she tracks down a small group of strangers. As their lives intertwine Vivi finds herself with a new kind of family, and by finding out more about all the pieces that make up the many parts of her, Vivi might just discover a whole new world waiting for her...

Comment: A friend let me borrow this book because the blurb seemed promising. She had also lent me another book by the author, months ago, and I was curious enough about this one to read another.

In this book, we meet Vivi, the narrator, while she tells us about the fact she had a heart transplant and being a journalist - although in a tabloid - she decides to investigate who her donor might have been. That is how she finds the donor's mother, someone who still hasn't gotten past that event. In a way to justify her receiving the organ that allowed her to live while the young Jamie, a teenager, had to die to make it so, Vivi agrees to investigate and see if she could find the others who got organs from Jamie too. She finds Jamie's mother request a little morbid after all this time but she still does it, not knowing how will she cope with the whole thing herself. Could it be that maybe some things shouldn't come to light?

I found this story to be emotional from the start. Not even one chapter complete and I was already crying, thinking about what it means to be a donor, especially the fact if someone receives an organ, someone needs to be dead to make it possible. Of course, for organs to be viable, certain conditions need to be met and brain death while the body is kept by artificial means is nothing more than tricky. I won't go into it for I don't have the expertise nor the personal knowledge on how to depict such an event, but let it be said it cannot be an easy choice, and I can't imagine what it can feel like to live with that choice.

In this story, that is the premise, that someone young and in good health died, and several organs allowed other people to live. The donor's mother made the choice and she still feels guilt and sadness and mourns a person she can't have back. I bet there would be a lot to be said in regards to her need to know the organs of her child were given to people that now are enjoying life and having fulfilling existences. But this book isn't a psychology essay and the focus is on Vivi, one recipient of one organ. Her work as a tabloid journalist didn't make me sympathize enough with her, nor the romantic choices she makes in her personal life.

Still, as Vivi is the narrator, the reader obviously can't help but be in her head and understand some of her motivations. However, for me this wasn't a good option; I would have preferred the story to be told in third person....how not to feel Vivi was being whiny or silly at times, considering it's her voice we follow? I hoped her evolution throughout the novel would go a certain way but I feel a little disappointed over the fact her transition from someone trying to keep her life superficial to someone in love and accepting her life wasn't as smooth or romantic as I hoped.

There are wonderful passages in the book, several details that made me think about the subject at hand, about the possible outcomes of such a situation....and the other people who received organs from Jamie had different ways of looking at it, which was clearly the author's intention, so the story was a lot more thoughtful than the title or cover might imply. It's just that I also imagined a better romance.

One of the other organ's recipient is someone Vivi gets close to while she investigates. We aren't sure if their relationship will get past a friendship but it's alluded to. Still, if this was included in the story, I think the author could have done a better job with it. I can't tell if she aimed to focus things solely on the subject and Vivi's experience meeting all those people and dealing with the emotions it provoked, especially when her relationship with her parents and sister had been so strained before she got the transplant, or if the romance was really only secondary anyway, but I wished for more, yes.

I think the emotional aspects of this story were well done, no doubt. It's not an easy subject and I think we are given one perspective of things, one possible scenario of how such a thing would happen. I'd say the characters were put in their optimal spots for this to develop a certain way but then, when we reach the end, everything was quickly done and almost as if we should have seen it coming. Ok, we did see it coming, but not as abruptly as it felt like, which means that, to me, the pace wasn't always as well done as it could.

All things considered, I liked the book in general, but some details made me feel frustrated in the end, because I think everything could have had a stronger impact and resolution. Nevertheless, I liked this one enough that I'll read something else by the author one day.
Grade: 7/10

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