Published by Grand Central Publishing on August 23rd 2016
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
A modern take on Sleeping Beauty, for fans of Jojo Moyes.
Elsa is spending her thirtieth birthday in the hospital bed where she's lain for months after a devastating mountain accident. Unable to speak, see, or move, she appears to be in an irreversible coma, but her friends and family don't know that she's regained the power of hearing.
That day, a stranger named Thibault enters the hospital to visit his brother, who's just been injured in an accident that killed two young girls. He instead seeks refuge in the room where Elsa lies, and quickly becomes intrigued by the young woman, returning day after day to sit beside her, convinced that his words are being heard.
As their connection grows, the doctors deliver a devastating blow to her family. Is it possible that Thibault knows something no one else does, and can he reach her before it's too late?
My parents leave the room. I didn’t even get a kiss, or if I did it was so perfunctory that I couldn’t hear it.
I’m just preparing to be alone with myself again when I hear the door handle turn. My mother must have left her scarf or something. But it’s not her walk, and it’s not my father’s either. It’s lighter and somehow hesitant at the same time. It can’t be my sister because she would have made herself known immediately. Perhaps it’s the care assistant come to finish what she started this morning. Who knows, she might have remembered that she didn’t do my lip balm.
The sound reaches my ears like a cool breeze. But the name rushes back into my mind with gale force. Thibault. He’s come back. I don’t know why. I want to believe that it’s just because he felt like it. Who cares, he’s here, and it makes a change even if he has only come to sleep.
“It still smells so much of jasmine in this room. Who puts it in here?”
The care assistant, I would like to answer, with the little vial of essential oil my mother gave her. Perhaps she’s been a bit heavy-handed with it today.
“It doesn’t matter, it smells good anyway.”
I hear him take off his jacket and even undo his shoelaces. He’s making himself comfortable, which means that he’s going to stay. I could jump for joy. Ha!
I hear the shoes being placed in a corner and the jacket on some piece of furniture at the back of the room. And a sweater or sweatshirt, too. It must be hot in my room. This is confirmed a few moments later.
“It’s so hot in this room! I’m down to my T‑shirt, I hope you don’t mind. Don’t worry, I’ll stop undressing now, got to maintain some semblance of decency in here.”
I listen avidly to everything he says and does, even though I am having difficulty understanding his behavior, his friendliness, his presence. Why has he come back?
“You must be asking yourself why I’m here. I’ve come with my mom to visit my brother. He’s in room fifty-five, you might remember. Though, I don’t know why I expect you to remember anything. You almost certainly can’t hear me, and I bet if I touch your arm you won’t feel a thing. God, I’m talking to myself . . . what is wrong with me?”
I can understand his confusion, but I’d still like to give him a clip around the ear for assuming I’m not here, and then tell him to carry on speaking to me. Doesn’t he know how important it is to speak to people in comas?
“I don’t know anything about comas,” he begins suddenly. “I’ve never known anyone who’s been in a coma before, and I hope I never will in the future either. I’ve got a feeling it’s good to talk though, so I will. But I don’t have the faintest hope that you’ll hear me. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Talking to you is like having a free session with a therapist, and you won’t repeat a word I say. First, though, I’m going to open the window because it’s absolutely boiling in here, and I usually feel the cold. I won’t ask you if you mind—you can’t tell me anyway.”
I’m pleasantly surprised. This is the first time anyone has spoken to me without condescension. Normally, people who come in here are pirouetting absurdly around me and bending over backward to be polite, and considerate, as though I will suddenly be offended or ask them for something. Thibault is the first one to realize that since I am about as interactive as a grapefruit at the moment, there’s really no point in bowing or curtseying when you’re in my room.
I hear the window slide open and the air rush in. I imagine myself shivering.
“Brrrr! I’m not staying by this window either!” he exclaims.
“Over here will be just fine.” I hear a chair being dragged to the left side of my bed.
A smothered electric sound comes from across the room.
“Shit, I didn’t turn my phone off. Excuse me, Elsa, I’d better take it. Even if you’ll probably go completely mad about it.”
I want to laugh. And then suddenly I want to cry. Or, rather, I wish my body was capable of crying. Not from sadness, but from joy. Thibault is also the first person to have made me want to laugh in six weeks. Even the rotten jokes of the DJ on the cleaning lady’s radio haven’t worked yet.
The giveaway is a Paper copy of this wonderful book-
From what perspective do you like a book to be written?
~~Reviewed by AnnMarie~~
I’m Still Here (Je Suis La) is a stand alone book by Clelie Avit, translated from French in this edition by Lucy Foster.
It’s the story of a young woman, Ella, who has been in a mountain climbing accident and is in a coma in hospital, and has been for some months. Unknown to anybody she is able to hear, and through listening to everybody that comes and go she learns that the doctors are trying to convince her parents to turn off her life support as they are sure she can’t come back from the coma. She also keeps up with the music of the day thanks to the cleaner’s radio, and keeps up with her sisters latest loves because she brings them to her hospital room where she spends the entire time kissing him. As time goes on her family seem to speak to her less but still keep up their visits.
Thibault is a visitor in the hospital, he is with his mother who is there visiting her older son after he was the driver in road traffic accident that killed two young women. Thibault can’t bring himself to visit his brother because he is too angry at him for drunk driving. He normally waits outside the room or sits in the stairwell while his mum is in with his brother. On one occasion while he was upset he pushed through a door believing it to be an exit. He realises immediately that he is in somebody’s room. But he can’t face leaving just then, and the person is asleep, so he sits down and tries to be quiet while he calms himself. He decides to look at her chart, and sees that she is in a coma. He doesn’t think she’ll mind, so he settles in for a visit with her and perhaps a sleep in the chair while he waits for his mother to finish visiting his brother. That’s when their relationship, albeit an odd one begins.
Thibault visits regularly, and with every visit he learns more about her, and also meets her friends who tells him more about what has happened. Ella loves his visiting, she loves that he talks to her, and although she can’t feel it, she loves knowing he is lying next to her on the bed when he decides it’s more comfortable to sleep on the bed near her, than on the plastic chair. He feels a bond with her, as she does with him. Crazy as he finds it, he finds himself falling in love with her. He desperately wants her to wake up. During one visit her monitors go crazy and she sits up in bed before falling back. Doctors are called, but they just see it as an anomaly and say she is still brain dead. During other visits Thibault is sure that she is responding to him, her heart monitor beeps rapidly sometimes when he is talking, or giving her a kiss goodnight. When he learns that the doctors want to turn her life support off he has to find a way to stop them. Her parents have agreed to it, so will he have any luck in convincing everybody to listen to him, and believe him that she isn’t brain dead, that she is ‘still here’.
I can’t say that I have ever read a book like this before, some chapters were told from Thibault’s perspective, the others from Ella’s. It was a great way of understanding what each character got from the visits, and of course to see what Thibault’s life was like outside of the room. It’s not the kind of romance I normally read, but I do believe it must fall into the romance genre because despite the circumstances, our couple do fall in love, and his love is what has to save her. I really enjoyed this story and as long as you don’t mind a romance without any physical relationship, you will thoroughly enjoy this book. I am so glad it has been made available in English so that I had the opportunity to read it.
I was given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.