A portrait of the harrowing despair and remarkable courage of a middle-class family tormented beyond endurance by a mindless act of violence.
Chris Carter, at 24, a medical student, had it all. Good looks, intelligence, a winning personality, a loving family. His girlfriend, Louise, was his dream girl, and he had everything ahead of him, everything to live for....
Until he was mugged after walking Louise home from his sister’s birthday party—and his world and the world of all those who knew him was changed forever.
His brain damage was significant, and it was touch-and-go whether he would ever again be the person he was, ever again be able to leave the hospital bed and walk outside in the summer sun.
His family and friends—simple, good folk— struggled to come to grips with their changed reality, and were forced into decisions that no one should ever have to make.
Chris’ mother, Frannie, struggled to hold the family together, while consumed with grief.
Vince, Chris’ father, dodged reality and continued his unrealistic existence until reality could not be denied.
Jeannie, Chris’ younger sister, who always considered herself a second class citizen, didn’t know how to seize the advantage Chris’ hospitalization offered.
Martha, Frannie’s sister, was the steel in the family’s spine until her own faith was severely tested by a tragedy in her own immediate family.
Father Norman, Chris’ friend and parish priest, was forced to choose between his church and his friend. His battle about what was right and wrong pitted him against Father Whittier, his pastor, and his God.
Dr. Meredith, the neurosurgeon who operated on Chris, not only faced incredible medical problems, but also the treachery of his subordinates, particularly Dr. Prendergast, a research-oriented psychologist.
Dr. Prendergast saw Chris as a unique test subject and, despite warnings by Dr. Meredith to the contrary, tried to get Chris to participate in his sensory deprivation experiments.
Carol, Chris’ nurse, who found a way to communicate with Chris beyond the superficial and the mundane, changed the course of events.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In a world of long lived Catholicism the choices are never easy. When the oldest son, the "Golden Boy" is terribly injured no one knows where to turn except the Church. The Church, as often happens; falls short. By a mile or two. In Shared Emptiness, author John Brinling shows us both sides of the coin. The daughter, outshone on every level by her older brother, who clings to Mass as a life jacket. Mom who has grown up in the Church and feels herself damned for thinking of killing her only son. Dad who isn't as strict on going to Mass (even if right across the street) but loves to play the horses and loves his family even if he does a piss-poor job of showing it. Then the aunts and uncles and cousins weigh in and they are as torn as the Carters. They have their own issues of pregnancies, dead children, unloved spouses and are getting no answers there, either. Chris Carter somehow kept this whole group connected. He wasn't a staunch Catholic, either' but his grins and personality tied them all up in a nice, neat bow and delivered them to each other. When Chris is hurt and ultimately survives in a vegetative state; everyone at one time or another thinks of pulling his plug. Can one of them actually do it and face retribution from God? Can his agnostic fiancé get up the nerve to free herself from a lifetime of servitude? This book brings to light many levels of compulsion from the Church, each other and our parents. Brinling has written a special novel and I do encourage all of you to read it. It's a large story, but it needs to be to explain our needs and wants through the Carter family and its satellite characters.
I’m not quite sure what I expected from this book, but I got much more than I anticipated. The closer I got to the final chapter, the more I wanted the story not to end, because I got so wrapped up in the lives of the many different characters, their world became very real to me. This is one of those stories which takes the reader through every emotion conceivable. It even had me questioning some of my own views and opinions – not only on the matter of euthanasia, but also other topics that are touched on throughout the book, such as abortion, suicide, and extra-marital affairs, to name a few. One thing is certain though: other than “The Help” by author Kathryn Stockett, I’ve never before read a book that moved me as deeply as this one did. I admire the way in which the author skillfully uses emotion and logic to emphatically tackle the controversial topic of euthanasia, and how deftly he provides insight into both sides of the argument for and against mercy death. The reader gets the perspective of the family, the Catholic Church, and the medical profession; each with conflicting views on a widely debated subject that not only is of consequence to the victim, but also to loved ones. In no way did the author favor one view over the other and I was often left questioning my own views on this issue and feeling undecided as to what I would do if I was in the same situation and had to make such impossible decisions. Would I want to “live” in a vegetative comatose state for as long as my body held out, or would I want – for their sake and mine – my loved ones to pull the plug on the machine keeping me alive? If it is someone I love, would I let him “live” or would I be showing kindness by pushing the respirator’s “off” button? The answer seems simple, doesn’t it? But after reading this book and seeing it through the eyes of a mother, father, sister, girlfriend and other extended family members, doctors who’ve sworn an oath to let live, and a Church unfaltering in its dogma, the answer no longer seems so straightforward. I applaud the author for the manner in which he brought both main and secondary characters to life by giving each their own back-story and having all of them facing unbridgeable obstacles, as well as their own personal demons. The families portrayed in this novel are dysfunctional in every sense of the word. I easily identified with their fears and daily struggles, and once I was halfway through the book, most of them had already crept snugly into my heart. Written with emotional insight and compassion, it is clear that the author did in-depth research so as to be able to make the reader feel every emotion, as well as the hopelessness and uncertainty each character experienced. Although I’m giving this superb book a five star rating for a moving plot that oftentimes left me shaken and teary-eyed, it’s still in need of some editing. “Shared Emptiness” is a page-turner that will have a different reflective effect on every reader, leaving you with a multi-layered story and imperfect characters that won’t soon be forgotten.
A family that seems to have one thing in common - their son seems to be the backbone of the family, keeping peace and balance, he knows when to joke around, when to be serious, until an unexpected tragedy happens. They must face a horrid reality and accept the cards that have been dealt, however the one person they need answers from can no longer help them. Each member of the family, along with a few friends and even the church, must now face facts, make decisions that may change their lives even more than it has already been changed. They all have trouble coping, all have trouble dealing with right from wrong. their lives are upside down, never to be the same again. The author brings you into the book, makes you a real part of it, so much to the point that you become a part of the story. You feel for each person as you find out their secrets. Each person has their own problems as well, making their choices even more difficult. A great read, a fantastic twist of an ending, one that no one would expect, but when that makes you feel good when you are done. I put my kindle down on my lap after reading the last page, put my hand on it and said, "Now that was a great story". and I meant it.
As the other reviewers have said SHARED EMPTINESS is a very complex story, it covers alot of controversial subject matters that arise for this family and also for their extended family. We get to see that as with any family, there is alot more going on behind closed doors than meets the eye. Along with how this family is dealing with the trauma of what has happened to their son, you also see a perfect example of the butterfly/ripple effect, where one action sets off a chain reaction of events. There is also a twist that I didn't see coming. This story will stay with you long after you have read the last page, and it may make you look at things a little differently than you did prior to reading it.