15/07/2013

By My Side (by Alice Peterson)

I've read a few books by Alice Peterson over the past five or six years, since being introduced to one of them by The Bookbag site. So it was the work of the moment to request this one when it appeared on the shelves a few weeks ago. The author tends to focus on stories in which the protagonists have to come to terms with difficult situations including disabilities, which is something she is well equipped to do: she was struck with a debilitating disease in her late teens, destroying her hopes of being a world class tennis player.  Her story is poignantly told in her autobiography, 'Another Alice'.

'By my side' is a novel about Cass, who is a medical student when we first meet her. She loves her work, and she also loves her boyfriend Sean - or thinks she does. Tired, hung over and rather distracted, she walks into the street without noticing a fast-moving lorry coming her way... and her life is forever changed.

It's a story of friendships, of coming to terms with a horrendous situation, and also a growing romance. Cass has wise and caring parents, who help her find a companion dog. Ticket has been trained to do all kinds of things that Cass is no longer able to do on her own, and his loyalty and love bring a spark back to her life. Slowly, with a lot of support, Cass not only finds a purpose in life, but starts to fall for the hunky ski instructor Charlie…

If I have a gripe it's that sometimes the book is a bit too educational. It was interesting to read about organisations whose purpose in life is to help those with disabilities, but I felt that there was just a bit too much factual information which added nothing to the story. There was also more than I was interested in about spinal  cord injuries.

Perhaps the ending is a tad too neat and tidy, but then I like threads to be tied up in a novel, and the way ahead at least somewhat clear.

Overall, I thought this a very enjoyable book. The writing is good, the sub-plots woven together well, and I related strongly to Cass. It's a thought-provoking story, and quite moving in places. While there is some fairly frank discussion about what Cass and others may or may not be able to do with their partners, there are - thankfully - no explicit bedroom scenes. While there's a little more bad language than I am comfortable with, it's mostly appropriate in context.

Recommended. Available in paperback in the UK, or in Kindle format on both sides of the Atlantic.

You can also read my slightly longer review of 'By my side' at the Bookbag site.

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