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The Easy Way Out - Steven Amsterdam

The Easy Way Out

By: Steven Amsterdam

Paperback | 30 August 2016 | Edition Number 1

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Shortlisted for the 2017 Prime Minister's Literary Award

If you could help someone in pain, would you?

Evan is a nurse, a suicide assistant. His job is legal . . . just. He's the one at the hospital who hands out the last drink to those who ask for it.

Evan's friends don't know what he does during the day. His mother, Viv, doesn't know what he's up to at night. And his supervisor suspects there may be trouble ahead.

As he helps one patient after another die, Evan pushes against legality, his own morality and the best intentions of those closest to him, discovering that his own path will be neither quick nor painless.

He knows what he has to do.

In this powerful novel, award-winning author Steven Amsterdam challenges readers to face the most taboo and heartbreaking of dilemmas. Would you help someone end their life?

About the Author

Steven Amsterdam is the award-winning author of Things We Didn't See Coming (winner of the AGE BOOK OF THE YEAR, shortlisted for the NSW Premier's Award for Fiction and longlisted for The Guardian First Book Award) and What The Family Needed (AWW Great Read and longlisted for the Dublin IMPAC literary award). He lives in Melbourne with his partner where he works as a palliative care nurse.

Review by Caroline Baum

This is an intelligent, relevant and immensely thought-provoking, tackling the controversial topic of assisted dying head-on. If you want to read a serious novel that will make you question your position on the subject while being immensely engaging and entertaining, look no further. It’s got the topical bite that you’d expect from Lionel Shriver: like her, Amsterdam brings a lethally cool, rational, methodical attack to a taboo most would prefer not to tackle. In this case, the author is a palliative care nurse, so he really knows what he’s talking about.

His central character Evan is mysterious and intriguing: he grew up on a commune with his mum Viv, a gambler who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and is determined to maintain her independence. By day Evan is a suicide assistant on a hush-hush pilot project in a hospital. By night, he unwinds in a no-strings attached sexual arrangement with a male couple.

Amsterdam renders each death that Evan assists with subtlety and unsentimental respect for the process - each scenario is a little bit different, testing Evan with varied challenges. After a minor stumble in the hospital program, he goes freelance with an under-the-radar volunteer group, presenting him with more people who have decided to end it all, and organises everything right down to the scented candles, the soundtrack and who will discover their death once they are gone. Amidst a flurry of calls from end of life clients, Viv suddenly goes missing, and Evan is faced with questions about her own care and intentions.

The Easy Way Out is rich with irony, a brilliant, uncomfortable but hugely important novel that I predict will be up for many prizes and deserves to win something major. It makes a significant, eloquent and humane contribution to an urgent public debate.
Industry Reviews
There is plenty to mull over in this challenging and topical story by a talented and thoughtful writer. - Books + Publishing

Steven Amsterdam has certainly not taken the easy way out with his new work of literary fiction. The author of What the Family Needed and Things We Didn't See Coming has taken a long and unflinching look at one of the most important issues for us as human beings; how will we deal with our own death? As a palliative care worker Amsterdam has had to face death many times, this experience radiates off the page of this astonishing novel which looks unflinchingly at the issue of terminally ill patients choosing how and when they will die. There are many voices discussing euthanasia today but very few do it with the light touch that Amsterdam brings to his work. The characters in "The Easy Way Out" are complex and fragile. The narrative dances between humour and pathos never lingering too long in either camp. Heartbreaking, funny, life-changing and sexy. This book raises important questions that we must all one day face and it does it without a hint of sentimentality. This is a book I wish I had written, a book I urge everyone to read. - Krissy Kneen, author of AFFECTION, TRIPTYCH and STEEPLECHASE

In this captivating novel, Steven Amsterdam explores the philosophical complexity of end-of-life choice without ever losing the urgency of an absorbing plot. The Easy Way Out is written with insight, humor, and brio. - ANDREW SOLOMON award winning author of FAR FROM THE TREE, THE NOONDAY DEMON and THE RECKONING

Amsterdam is so damn good. He is up there with the best, Delillo and the like, original as Tsolkias, but most importantly he is a master storyteller in his own right, assured and compelling, he somehow articulates things you know deep down but never been able to put your finger on. I never want to stop reading him. - ANNA KRIEN - bestselling author of NIGHT GAMES, INTO THE WOODS and US and THEM

Although it may not seem so at first, Steven Amsterdam's third novel illustrates yet again his ability to mingle relatable human drama with mild speculative themes.

The dramatic pivot of the novel arrives when the moral and ethical waters become muddied for Evan. A turning point comes for the nurse, who begins to understand that he is capable of providing a deeper, in his eyes, more humane form of advocacy.

The Easy Way Out is a perfect storm of a novel. Superbly written and instantly engaging, with great characters and a killer (excuse the pun) premise, it also benefits from a fascinating real-world hook: Amsterdam has been employed for many years as a palliative-care nurse. - Sydney Morning Herald

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