Filled with grace, sensitivity and compassion, The Promise of Stardust is an emotionally resonant and thought-provoking tale that raises profound questions about life and death, faith and medicine, and illuminates the power of love to divide and heal a family in the wake of unexpected tragedy. Matt Beaulieu was two years old the first time he held Elle McClure in his arms, seventeen when he first kissed her under a sky filled with shooting stars, and thirty-three when he convinced her to marry him. Now in their late 30s, the deeply devoted couple has everything-except the baby they've always wanted. When an accident leaves Elle brain dead, Matt is devastated. Though he cannot bear the thought of life without her, he knows Elle was afraid of only one thing-a slow death. And so, Matt resolves to take her off life support. But Matt changes his mind when they discover Elle's pregnant. While there are no certainties, the baby might survive if Elle remains on life support. Matt's mother, Linney, disagrees with his decision. She loves Elle, too, and insists that Elle would never want to be kept alive on machines. Linney is prepared to fight her son in court-armed with Elle's living will. Divided by the love they share, Matt and Linney will be pitted against each other, fighting for what they believe is right, and what they think Elle would have wanted resulting in a controversial legal battle that will ultimately go beyond one family . . . and one single life.
Matt and Elle are a married couple living in Maine. Matt is a neurosurgeon just a few years into trying to build his own practice while Elle is a former NASA astronaut-turned-physics & astronomy professor. They've been a couple on and off since their teen years, when Matt accidentally got Elle pregnant. Elle lost the baby, and two others after that in the following years. The last miscarriage left her hemorrhaging so badly that it nearly killed her. Matt, fearing that he may lose her, puts his foot down and says no more pregnancies, but Elle desperately wants to try just once more. Following a night of intimacy between them, Elle becomes pregnant but doesn't tell Matt. Instead, he finds out about the child after Elle takes a fall from a ladder, landing a blow to the head so severe it throws her into a comatose state almost immediately.
When Matt, in neurosurgeon mode, looks over his wife's injuries, he immediately sees that her pupils indicate severe brain trauma that she likely won't come back from. In fact, all signs point toward brain death. But once he's informed that Elle is pregnant, he decides to leave her on life support long enough to hopefully bring the baby close enough to term for a safe delivery. After that, he promises to shut the machines off. What he doesn't expect is the fight he finds himself in against his own mother (who is also Elle's godmother), who says his decision is in direct violation with Elle's living will.This living will Elle created in her teen years gives Matt's mother power of attorney. To complicate matters further, another character comes in saying THEY have an updated power of attorney from Elle. Matt suddenly finds that what was a simple plan to save the life of his child is turning into a legal and ethical battle that gets picked up by the media and sweeps the country.
One of my favorite reads of the month so far. It's not the easiest book to get into, a lot of it moves much slower than the typical modern novel, and it addresses the tough topic of a spouse having to decide when / how to let go of their partner on life support when hope of recovery just doesn't seem like a possibility anymore. We not only get the personal aspect of Matt and Elle, their bond illustrating how a relationship can evolve over years, but there's also the media element that, I found, had a lot of relevance and food for thought as far as how the media can latch onto a sensational topic and spin it to suit a certain agenda ... regardless of how that might affect the people directly involved with the story. Through Matt's experiences, the reader sees an example of how events can actually transpire versus the story the rest of us, not in the immediate picture, get fed by media outlets and how that can unfairly fuel rage in protest groups who don't have all the facts.
This novel makes a number of references to Roe vs. Wade as well as the true life story of Terri Schiavo. It has the characters get into the debate about when a life is considered a life, whether that's at conception or when it's officially at "fetus" stage. Elle's condition is also used to look at the complications that can arise when decisions made on paper can conflict with extenuating circumstances. Matt's mother argues that Elle signed paperwork that specifically gives DNR (Do Not Resusitate) orders. But Matt argues that only he lived with Elle day in and day out and no one knew the inner workings of her heart and mind like he did. He knew that Elle journaled constantly so he seeks out passages that will help show the naysayers why he feels he's in the right. I think what gives this story extra dimension though is the honest portrayal of Matt when even he is second-guessing his decisions. What if he's wrong? I think any reader can relate to that feeling, that fear, that maybe everyone else IS right?! Maybe not under these circumstances, necessarily, but I think we've all had moments where we've been in a similar mindset.
I will warn readers that there is a great deal of medical terminology throughout the novel. The author herself happens to be a NICU (Natal Intensive Care Unit) nurse, so I'm sure the jargon is second-nature to her. I grew up around hospital environments myself and have also had medical jobs, so I'm comfortable with it myself, but I just wanted to give a heads up to readers. There are also a fair number of legal passages as well, so I'd say if you are a fan of the works of John Grisham or Michael Crichton's medical dramas, you may have a good time with this one. I don't even have children of my own and I was moved by this story and the realness of all the characters involved!