Promise of Stardust (Sibley)

The Promise of Stardust
Priscille Sibley, 2013
432 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780062194176

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 they wed. Now in their late thirties, the deeply devoted couple has everything—except the baby they've always wanted.

When a tragic accident leaves Elle brain-dead, Matt is devastated. Though he cannot bear losing her, he knows his wife, a thoughtful and adventurous scientist, feared only one thing—a slow death. Just before Matt agrees to remove Elle from life support, the doctors discover that she is pregnant. Now what was once a clear-cut decision becomes an impossible choice. Matt knows how much this child would have meant to Elle. While there is no certainty her body can sustain the pregnancy, he is sure Elle would want the baby to have a chance. Linney, Matt's mother, believes her son is blind with denial. She loves Elle, too, and insists that Elle would never want to be kept alive by artificial means, no matter what the situation.

Divided by the love they share, driven by principle, Matt and Linney fight for what each believes is right, and the result is a disagreement that escalates into a controversial legal battle, ultimately going beyond one family and one single life.

Told with 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, with beauty and grace, the power of love to wound...and to heal. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
A few people always know what they want to do when they grow up. Priscille Sibley knew early on she would become a nurse. And a poet. Later, her love of words developed into a passion for storytelling.

Born and raised in Maine, Priscille has paddled down a few wild rivers, done a little rock climbing, and jumped out of airplanes. She currently lives in New Jersey where she works as a neonatal intensive care nurse and shares her life with her wonderful husband, three tall teenaged sons, and a mischievous Wheaten terrier. (From the author's website.)

Book Reviews
Sibley's debut dissects the ethics of a patient's right to die with dignity as a family is torn by a decision to terminate life support. Neurosurgeon Matt Beaulieu finally marries the love of his life, astrophysicist Elle McClure, having known her since he was two years old. After several miscarriages, the couple give up on the idea of having a baby, but when Elle falls and suffers severe head trauma, Matt's life falls completely apart. He knows her biggest fear was to die on life support, as her mother did. During preparations to remove her from life support, it's discovered that she is pregnant and if she remains connected she could potentially carry the fetus to term. Matt decides her desire to have a child would supersede her fear of life support, but his own mother takes him to court as executor of Elle's living will. Jake Sutter, Matt's college roommate, takes the case, using Matt's personal dilemma to serve his own prolife political agenda. The family's anguish is agonizing, each member doing what they believe to be Elle's desire or in her best interest, and while the ending is predictable, the journey is heartrending and tragic.
Publishers Weekly

There’s nothing like devastating moral quandary to spark reading, and this trade paperback original would be a great book club choice.
Library Journal

Sibley does a wonderful job of exploring a complex and controversial moral issue, skillfully giving both sides of the story…. This is a gripping, thoughtful, heart-wrenching, and well-written debut that would be a great discussion vehicle for certain book groups.

While the novel is a fictionalized Schiavo-like intrafamily moral war, Sibley ups the ethical stakes by interweaving pregnancy with end-of-life issues. Characters are well-drawn, although the arrogant vindictiveness of Cunningham may be overblown. While she does take the easy way out regarding the end-of-life question, Sibley translates medical and legal issues solidly, bringing both emotion and reason into an examination of our collective failure to agree upon when life begins and ends. A literate and incandescent Nicholas Sparks-like love story complicated by intense moral and ethical questions.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1.As a neurosurgeon, Matt immediately realizes that Elle’s brain damage is severe. Why do you think he lets Phil operate? Do you think he betrays Elle by letting Phil do so? What about when Matt decides to keep his wife on life support?

2. Do you think Linney is overstepping her bounds when she opposes Matt’s decision to keep Elle on life support? How much of Linney’s behavior do you think is motivated by her experience as a nurse? Or by guilt over her decision not to intervene when Alice was dying/ suffering?

3. As teenagers, Matt and Elle find themselves about to have a baby. What do you think would have happened if Matt had approached his parents for help? Why doesn’t Matt’s dad, Dennis, do anything when he finds out Elle is pregnant? How do you think Hank would have reacted? Do you think Matt could have gone to one of his older brothers?

4. When Elle miscarries the first time, she says a name is important because it is the only thing they will ever be able to give the baby. Do you think it’s important to give a name to grief?

5. Matt wants to keep the court case private, but it becomes a media circus. How much influence does the media have on events like this? How much should they have? Is their involvement an expression of freedom of speech or is it an invasion of privacy?

6. Matt keeps talking to Elle while she’s in the hospital, even though he knows she can’t hear him. Why do you think he does that?

7. Elle says women are stronger because they can discuss their sadness and men feel as though they have to mask their pain and insecurities. Do you think that’s true?

8. Matt describes Adam as a controlling prick, but at another point Matt describes himself as a controlling spouse with a medical degree. Why would Elle choose two men who, on the surface, are quite different from each other? Or are they more similar than Matt believes?

9. Do you think Elle or Linney actually hastened Alice’s death? Do you think Matt would have actually gone to the authorities with Elle’s diary? Would you have given Alice an extra “dose” to relieve her suffering?

10. Matt tried desperately to resuscitate his and Elle’s stillborn son. How do you think that loss affected Matt? Elle? And, as a doctor, was Matt’s “failure” to save the baby a deeper loss for him?

11. Matt does not hold Christopher in high esteem. What do you think the origin of Matt’s animosity is? Do you think Christopher is aware of Matt’s feelings about him? Was Elle?

12. Why do you think Elle never gave Matt her medical power of attorney? Have you made an advanced directive? Who would you designate to make those decisions for you?

13. At the end of the story, Matt sees a fleeting figure in the trees and for a moment he thinks it is Elle. In the aftermath of loss, have you ever briefly forgotten that your loved one is gone? Do you believe some part of them stays with you forever?

14. In some states, pregnancy invalidates a woman’s advanced directive. Are you familiar with the laws in your state? Would you want to be kept on life support if you were pregnant?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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