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Never Let me Go: Discussion Reflections

by: Christine Petrides

What a fantastic discussion we had this past week all about our 3rd book club book; Never Let me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Not only did we have a wonderful turnout of fellow Pain Geeks (that’s you guys!), we were also delighted to be joined by Lissanthea Taylor, physiotherapist and expert in narrative medicine to guide our discussion. Lissanthea also wrote a fantastic blog about why we should read the arts in pain care practice, so go and check that out as well.

You might be wondering how fiction literature fits into a platform like Pain Geeks. I suppose it seems like we should be mostly reading research articles, textbooks or other really “scientific” things. But, that’s not what we believe at Pain Geeks. The whole point of setting up this platform was to allow our readings; as clinician, as scientists, as researchers to echo the complexity of pain. Pain is not some straightforward thing. It’s a biological thing, a social thing, a psychological thing, a human thing. And it’s always all of those things at all times. We want Pain Geeks to broaden our horizons when it comes to understanding pain and what it means to be a person living with pain. We want to tackle the hard questions from both a patient and clinician perspective.

Never Let me Go stimulated so many great questions that are directly applicable to our experience as pain clinicians like:

What does it mean to be a carer?

What is first person narrative and why is that important to think about?

Why is it so uncomfortable not to know things?

Some of the things that I took away from this book and the discussion was that stories are not linear. Stories jump around, go back and forth in time, highlight the important bits and reflect the emotional and innerworld of the story teller. The story may never be complete, and all the information may never be available. This is often the case when patients are telling us their stories.

We talked about the experience of knowing vs. not knowing. In the book we are often pulled into a story about something in which many details are not told and we are assumed to know what is happening. Some people found that really frustrating and it made me think of my own experiences with psychological therapy. Many times I have thought to myself how I wished my therapist just knew all the details of my story, just knew all the things that had happened to me so that she could tell me why I feel the way that I do. It’s been unbelievably frustrating at times thinking about how I would never be able to convey all that I wanted in the way that I wanted. And the reality is I will never be able to. Even if I could tell her everything, she would never know what it felt like to be me in any given situation, she could only imagine it from her own point of view. This differentiation was so apparent in the discussion as well. Everyone saw the events of this book slightly differently, different people were pulled in by different parts, triggered by events in different ways. It was fascinating to see really.

We discussed the role of a carer, as the main character, Kathy H. was a carer in the book. An interesting and close to home role that many of us in healthcare take up. In the book the carers were really only for emotional support, as there were doctors and nurses still taking care of them in a more medical way. A looming question throughout most of the book is whether or not these characters are human, as they are clones used to provide organ donations to the public. And yet, at the same time, they are assigned to care for each other, something which would seem unnecessary if they were not humans. There was a constant tension of feeling so connected to this person and relating in many ways, to slowly learning over the course of the book how different they actually were and feeling less and less as if you had a good grasp as to what their experience is.

It was one of those reads that leaves you with much to contemplate and could easily be reread and explored many times over. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, I would highly recommend it. If you have read it, what were your thoughts? Let us know, we would love to hear them!

Thanks for readings and see you at the next book club!

You can follow Lissanthea on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

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