Tiny Pieces of Us…
About the Book:
From bestselling author Nicky Pellegrino comes a magnificent novel about the unexpected ways in which our lives weave and tangle, and the bravery we find in the most difficult circumstances.
‘My heart is less than one per cent of my body, it weighs hardly anything; it’s only a tiny piece of me, yet it’s the part everyone finds most interesting. . .’
Vivi Palmer knows what it’s like to live life carefully. Born with a heart defect, she was given a second chance after a transplant, but has never quite dared to make the most of it. Until she comes face-to-face with her donor’s mother, Grace, who wants something in return for Vivi’s new heart: her help to find all the other people who have tiny pieces of her son.
Reluctantly drawn into Grace’s mission, Vivi’s journalist training takes over as one by one she tracks down a small group of strangers. As their lives intertwine Vivi finds herself with a new kind of family, and by finding out more about all the pieces that make up the many parts of her, Vivi might just discover a whole new world waiting for her…
This was such a lovely novel. Truly heartfelt and deeply affecting. I’ve never read such a multifaceted account of organ donation before and I appreciated the many views and perspectives, giving me so much to think on that I never would have thought on before.
“She is so lost in grief that I think this search is almost like a form of therapy,” I explained. “And meeting all of the recipients may help her accept that Jamie is gone. It’s what I’m hoping for anyway, that it might be healing, because I think things have been desperate…really desperate. I’m worried about her.”
There was a well of sadness within this novel, particularly relating to Grace, the mother who donated the organs of her teenager after he died tragically in a bicycle traffic accident. Grace’s grief was deep and I could relate as a mother to the pain she would have been in. However, on the other side, I found Grace’s fixation on the donor recipients unhealthy and uncomfortable. There were times where she definitely seemed to see them less as people and more as vessels containing a piece of her son. It was very tricky terrain and I feel that the author navigated this issue and the many thorny areas surrounding it with empathy and honesty. It was all very well done.
‘None of us could say no to Grace and I was beginning to see the potential for a problem. She was such an unknown quantity. Who was to say meeting us all would be enough? What if it didn’t help her at all; what might she want next?’
While the story is primarily told from the perspective of Vivi, the recipient of Jamie’s heart, the story also dips in and out of other key perspectives at pivotal times within the plot. We might only hear from a character once or twice, but the insight was useful in driving the plot forward and also in offering a differing voice, not that Vivi was annoying or anything, but even so, a new voice here and there is always refreshing.
‘My sister didn’t get it and that was fine. This was no time to remind her that borrowed hearts don’t last forever; I might not be around to see Farah and Darya grow up; we weren’t going to get old together, she and I. That knowledge was always there, and even though I tried to keep it small and safe at the back of my mind, how could it not affect the way I lived the shorter life I was bound to have?’
I did really enjoy the sister bond between Vivi and Imogen and the sidebar issue of Imogen’s fracturing and the long term effects on her that stemmed from growing up as the older sister of someone who was constantly facing death. The relationship between the sisters was heartfelt and relatable, and I enjoyed the very real affection they had for each other and the way in which this played out through their dialogue and text messaging.
‘When you have another person’s heart inside your chest it is natural to worry about every flutter, each moment when your heart seems to skip a beat or hammer out too many, any sense of tightness or sharp pain. You don’t shrug off those things, assuming there is nothing to be concerned about like other people might.’
Above all though, this novel offers a great deal of insight into the entire process of organ donation stretching beyond the transplant. There were many things I had no idea about and was surprised to discover. I honestly didn’t know the extent to which the battle for life continued for the recipient, and nor did I realise that their life was still shortened, that the transplant doesn’t ‘save’ them, it just gives them extra years and an improved, but not wholly well, quality of life. This was the first novel by Nicky Pellegrino that I’ve read and it was a brilliant introduction to her work. I can highly recommend this one and look forward to reading more of her books.
Thanks is extended to Hachette Australia for providing me with a copy of Tiny Pieces of Us for review.
About the Author:
When Nicky Pellegrino’s Italian father came to England he fell in love with and married a Liverpool girl. He brought to his new family his passion for food and instilled in them what all Italians know – that you live to eat instead of eating to live. This Italian mantra is the inspiration behind Nicky’s delicious novels. When Nicky met and married a New Zealander she moved to Auckland where she works as a journalist and edits a woman’s magazine.
Tiny Pieces of Us
Published by Hachette New Zealand
Released 30th June 2020