Posted by Literary Titan
The Husband Who Refused to Die follows Carrie as she deals with the loss of her husband and his decision to be cryogenically frozen. The novel is a thoughtful review of grief, love and family. What was the inspiration for this story?
The idea came to me after reading an article in a women’s magazine a few years ago about a young couple, in their 20s, who’d both signed up to have their bodies frozen when they die.
They’d paid a large sum of money to be cryonically preserved, in the hope they can be revived and come back to life at a later date – when science has moved on.
I was intrigued by their story and the motivations and implications of such a radical – and unusual – choice. I’d been searching for an original premise for my debut novel, and I knew this was it.
I’m often drawn to stories in which the extraordinary happens in ordinary lives, and relished the prospect of learning about something outside my own – and most other people’s – experience, yet, at the same time, exploring grief, an emotion that we all face at some point.
I discovered that several hundred people are signed up to be preserved after death and was very excited to learn that, although cryonics has been given the sci-fi treatment in books and films, it’s never been the hook in realistic, contemporary women’s fiction. Dare I say it’s a first?!
My head was spinning with ‘what ifs’ when it came to contemplating cryonics: What if someone I loved passed away and wanted to be frozen? What if there was no funeral? What if I felt I couldn’t grieve in the normal way? What if I thought it was creepy and confusing? What if I couldn’t find closure?
It’s these questions that led me to create Carrie and Dan’s story.
On top of her current troubles, Carrie must also try to deal with her ornery teenager. I felt that their relationship had depth that is rarely seen in novels. How did you approach writing about their relationship and what did you want to accomplish with it?
I have a son who was a similar age to Carrie’s daughter, Eleanor, at the time I was writing the first draft, as well as many friends with teenage children. So my starting point was my own experience and observations of life with a young person going through this turbulent time. I then tried to imagine the extra strain and pressure the mum and daughter relationship would be put under when faced with the difficult and distressing situation Carrie and Eleanor find themselves in.
What kind of research did you do on cryonics for this novel and do you see it as a viable option today for people?
After some initial research on the internet and in the media, I interviewed several people who have signed up to be cryonically preserved to gain a deeper understanding and some first-hand insights.
I was particularly fascinated to hear about how others had responded to their decisions: family, friends, strangers, and the media. It’s an emotive topic and some have endured a lot of negativity.
I also attended a weekend training course with Cryonics UK, a group of volunteers who carry out emergency procedures to prepare bodies for preservation in the UK before they are shipped out to one of the storage facilities in American or Russia.
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding cryonics, particularly here in the UK following the recent heartbreaking case of the terminally ill teenager who had to fight in the High Court for her wish to be frozen after death to be granted.
Many experts believe there’s little or no chance of bringing a frozen corpse back to life, now or in the foreseeable future, but cryonicists would argue that things declared scientifically impossible a few decades ago, like IVF and organ transplants, are now possible, so it’s worth a punt. Either way, I believe that it’s a personal choice.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
I’m working on another contemporary women’s fiction novel, which I hope will be published next year.
“Carrie’s no ordinary widow. Husband Dan has died unexpectedly and left behind an extraordinary wish – to be frozen. He believes his life’s simply been ‘suspended’, that he can come back … one day … when science has moved on. He’d hoped his wife would want to do the same. But she doesn’t.
Two years on and Carrie, mum to increasingly truculent teenage daughter Eleanor, tentatively reconnects with an old boyfriend, whose dramatic exit from her life has always been a painful mystery. But their romance is hampered by Carrie’s never-ending personal problems, not least her interfering sister-in-law Sunny, a reflexologist with a soft voice, loud clothes and a bag full of natural remedies. Sunny’s intent on keeping her brother’s memory alive and ensuring Carrie honours his request.
After Dan’s story is resurrected in the news headlines, some distressing secrets from the past are revealed, and Carrie is taunted by someone with a serious grudge.
But are the secrets true? Will she discover who’s behind the malicious acts – and why?
Told with warmth and wit, The Husband Who Refused to Die is a pacy novel with an original premise that casts an unusual light on a story about love, loss, family and friendship.”
Posted in Interviews
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Posted by Literary Titan
There is no road map for how to properly deal with becoming a widow, but what if you can’t even be sure you really are? Thanks to cryonics, this is now a real question to consider. Carrie’s husband Dan is decidedly dead, gone from an apparent heart attack, but can she really be called a widow? Can she grieve like one? She laughed when he first mentioned it, but now Dan has left her in emotional limbo, having opted to have his body frozen while his life is “suspended”. The plan is to come back one day, after science figures out the other end of the process. His wife was to join him, but Carrie has other plans. As Dan’s body is packed up and shipped off to some distant future Carrie will never be a part of, she is left to pick up the pieces with her daughter Eleanor and face life as a grieving non-widow. Two years later, old, painful and mysterious flames are rekindled, but just what secrets they shed light on remains to be seen.
There are many themes to unpack in The Husband Who Refused to Die. The ethics of “playing God”, rich vs poor, the effect of death on a family, and the difficulty of moving on in grief are all touched on to varying degrees in this work. Carrie makes a valiant effort, but are there too many forces at work against her?
While Carrie tries to figure out how to grieve for a husband who is not really dead, their daughter Eleanor must navigate the same sorrow, but for a father who is also not dead but is still gone forever. She also has the added hardship of being a teenage girl who was already having a rough time, and her classmates who are happy to make it worse. Eleanor wishes she’d never heard the word “cryonics”.
Sunny, Carrie’s aptly-named sister-in-law, is an outwardly positive reflexologist with a stone, potion, or remedy always at the ready. This is a result of the crunchy-hippy life Sunny and Dan’s parents raised them in, which Sunny never grew out of. Sunny is there to support Carrie, but lately their interactions seem to be less about helping Carrie to grieve and more about pressuring her to abide by Dan’s wishes.
Two years later, Carrie has learned to get through her days, and is trying to be a good mother to troubled Eleanor. Carrie has rekindled an old flame, but even this brings more questions, mostly about the shroud of mystery surrounding the end of their previous relationship. I felt this came to a somewhat unsatisfying resolution, as Ashley was let off the hook a bit too easily.
Eventually, the circumstances around Dan’s decision to be frozen become a source of public controversy, and of course he is not here to face it. Now Carrie is left to answer for the alleged actions against her husband, regarding something she never wanted him to do, and has been a giant source of pain for her and her family. As questions about the selfishness and ethics of donating money to be cryogenically frozen begin to arise, the press begins to close in. Angry letters give way to hate mail, which eventually turn to threatening calls, and eventually Carrie finds herself in real danger. Worst of all, could the things they are saying about her husband true?
Darby has offered a humorous and unique new take on the age-old story of loss, grievance, and perseverance. Although some parts did drag on a bit longer than necessary without adding much payoff, for the most part the story moved along nicely. Anytime it started feeling at all predictable, interesting new conflicts would arise, deepening my sympathy for Carrie. This was a fun read which raised lots of questions that would be difficult to answer if I were put in the position to do so. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
Pages: 320 | ASIN: B01N1KK7JI
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