Sunday, February 10, 2013

REVIEW: The Driving Lesson by Ben Rehder

Life Has Become Cheap

I read. A lot. I used to read two or three fantasy novels a day as a single man, and even now that I have a family I average about two-thirds of a book each day. Some of the books are better than others, and I'll reread them often. Others I read once and I set aside. Now that I have a Nook and the Kindle app for my iPhone, it doesn't bother me as much too much not to reread books, since many of the books I read these days are books which I receive free through various promotions.

I've been reading a lot of young adult literature to get into the right mindset to work on a new novel in that genre. One such book is The Driving Lesson by Ben Rehder. The book description on the Amazon site reads, "Charlie Dunbar had big plans for the summer break, but becoming a fugitive was nowhere on the list. Even more unexpected, his partner in crime is his own ailing grandfather. Now they're on the run, trying to make it across the country to see a special kind of doctor, while the world becomes mesmerized by their journey. They are the subject of heated debates on cable news channels. Thousands of people voice their support on Facebook fan pages. And Charlie's own parents appear on live TV to plead for him to come home safely. But Charlie isn't ready yet. He's determined to get his grandfather to Seattle. The only question is, will the police stop him first?"

Perhaps I retain a modicum of naivety. Perhaps I didn't want to read into that description what I now realize to be true: the "special kind of doctor" to whom Charlie Dunbar is driving his grandfather is a doctor who will assist his grandfather, diagnosed with terminal cancer, to die. This book is an apology, a defense, for physician-assisted suicide. I won't ruin the book for you if you want to read it, but in brief, Charlie, a fourteen year-old high school student, is picked up by his grandfather on the last day of school, and the grandfather has him leave Texas and drive toward the state of Washington, where physician-assisted suicide is legal. Along the way Charlie learns about relative morality, about using the media to manipulate the authorities, and about the power of social media--among other lessons.

This book is being marketed as a young adult novel. Indeed, he writes well, and the writing level in general is appropriate for his audience--not an unremarkable feat for one who is usually an adult novelist. From the perspective of the sinful world, this is an excellent defense for those who advocate "dignity in death." As one who believes that all life is sacred and that even a life of suffering is a blessing from the Lord, I might use such a book as a discussion tool with my youth group. In no way do I advocate the position put forth by the author through his character, but he states his case very well.

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