Imagine the pain of finding out that your son has a degenerative condition that causes his heart to stop every once in a while. Now think of how you would cope if you were told that he only has a couple of years left to live, if not months. Would it be easier to accept the news if you had faith? Or would belief in God go out the window because the situation seemed so unfair?
Colm Francis Magee is turning seven and he has technically died more times than he can remember. His mother (Cathleen), who is a single parent, tries to diagnose his condition by bringing him to plenty of specialists—all without a straight answer or treatment. That is, until they meet Dr. Gaspar Basu, who is known to be the best electrophysiologist-cardiologist out there.
What Cathleen finds out, however, nearly breaks her heart: Colm has a rare condition which will eventually lead to the breakdown of his body and his imminent death. With the aid of Dr. Basu, Colm gets a pacemaker to help with his cardiac arrests, but it is clear that there is nothing more to be done.
Since Cathleen’s only living relative is her brother, Sean, he plays a big role in her and her son’s life—but he has his own problems (alcohol abuse) that he needs to free himself from before he can be the rock that Cathleen needs him to be for the family.
Dr. Basu (originally from India) has his own past and while treating Colm, quickly starts to love the boy as his own but also starts to have strong feelings for Cathleen.
In a quest to heal her son, Cathleen asks Dr. Basu to accompany her and Colm to Assisi, where he could possibly be cured through blessings and prayer. When Colm knows himself that the end is nearing closer every day, he requests to see his father who he has never known about or seen in his short life—in a way, his answer to what heaven means to him.
All three adults are tested in strength and belief when they take a road trip to L.A. to find Colm’s father, Pierce and possibly another treatment from one of the top doctors in the world.
This book is Hackett’s first novel and the material for the topic in her story is drawn from her own experiences (she has a heart condition as well), so she has a special understanding and appreciation for the events that happen to her characters. What did you think of the struggle between religion and medicine and the plot as a whole?
To read reviews on Proof of Heaven, please click on the link below.
From New York Journal of Books:
From Kirkus Reviews:
For information on Mary Curran Hackett, click below:
The following are questions to consider after reading the novel:
-Colm doesn’t believe in anything at first. What do you think he comes to believe in the end? And do you believe in a higher power or God?
-Where do you look for, and have you found, “Proof of Heaven”?
To see all questions, please click on the Harper Collins Canada link below:
It is determined in the book that Colm suffers from a condition called Multiple System Atrophy or MSA. As this is more commonly diagnosed in men who are 60 or older but likewise rare, Colm’s situation really is an anomaly. For more information about this medical condition, please click on the following link:
This book reminded me of …
There was truly only one book that I thought of when reading this and it was Lisa Genova’s Love Anthony. The bond between mother and son in both novels may have been a little different but it was certainly emphasized. Each story had two desperate mothers searching for miracles or an answer to their child’s predicament, while showing the lengths they go through to ease their emotional pain. The balance of religion and medicine is clear in both stories and the acceptance at the end is also very similar.
Favorite quote from book:
“Words were something you couldn’t put back up on the shelf after playing with them. You couldn’t wipe them off the counter top after you let them spill. You couldn’t put a Band-Aid on what they cut. The cells wouldn’t reconstruct themselves, like Dr. Basu had taught him. No. New cells wouldn’t build themselves out of one another after the words had sliced, caused another to bleed.” (p. 189)
Most raw moment in the story:
Knowing that Colm is so young and weak from his illness, the way Uncle Sean treats him outside the movie theater is quite heartless and shocking. We know where Sean’s anger is coming from, but to treat his nephew with such mercilessness is a little hard to swallow. (p. 223-227)
Next month’s title:
Helen Keller in Love by Rosie Sultan