I’m Still Here (Je Suis Là) by Clélie Avit
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Set in a hospital with one of the main characters in a coma and the other there to visit his seriously injured brother, this book could have been depressing, but it wasn’t. Somehow, Elsa (in a coma) and Thibault (seriously injured brother) both manage to make this book feel upbeat, even when it ought to be very sad. It’s part romance (sort of), part general fiction.
To be clear, Elsa is, through the entire book, in a coma. She can hear, but that’s it. She can’t see, feel, or move, and all of her medical data suggests she’s never waking up. Still, she narrates about half the book, solely based on what she can hear and what she imagines is happening based on that. It’s a really interesting perspective that I enjoyed quite a bit. I can’t imagine having to interpret my world based on what I could hear alone.
Thibault, on the other hand, spends most of his time talking or sleeping. I have somewhat mixed feelings about him. He’s great with Elsa, and I like that he continues to visit her, feeling some strange sort of bond even though he’s never really met her. Still, he’s pretty selfish with his brother and mom, and even though he’s good with friends, I didn’t love that he wasn’t there for his family. I also thought he was a little too forward with Elsa, and even though we know from her that she didn’t mind, it seemed like he was pushing a little too much.
There are other characters in the book, but to me, they’re practically not there. We don’t learn all that much about them and we only see them briefly. I know this is a story about Elsa and Thibault, but it would have been nice to get to know Elsa’s parents better, or even Thibault’s brother or mother, or some of Elsa’s friends who visited. The plot and characters were very straightforward with not much complexity.
This book reminds me a little of “Sleeping Beauty,” but also a little of If I Stay, with some obvious differences. The idea of getting into someone’s head when they’re in a coma is really an interesting one and I like reading stories from this perspective.
The one thing that really bugged me was the ending. It seemed perfect, except that it can be interpreted in two different ways (I think) and I wish I knew which the author intended! I guess it doesn’t matter, because it’s not bad to have some ambiguity, but it’s still a little frustrating.
I liked this book and read it quickly, but I didn’t love it. There was some depth missing for me. It was very much about two people and their (sort of?) relationship developing. I would have liked to have seen more of their lives when they weren’t together. This felt a little like a one-sided romance, which is good for what it is, but which left me wanting something. I gave it three stars and would recommend it for a quick read.
*ARC from Grand Central Publishing via NetGalley