REVIEW: The Atheist and the Parrotfish by Richard Barager
Posted by ME
This has got to be one of the most interesting (and potentially “what if”) premises I’ve read in a long time. What makes it even more enticing is the fact that it’s something we all should have wondered about: does a transplant patient take on more of the organ donor’s life than just the functioning body part? Is there a spiritual connection, or something happening at the cellular level that speaks to another level of life?
Of course, Barager’s highly-complex main character grapples with other issues. His atheism is almost an angry part of him. This isn’t a comfortably aware person at peace with his steadfast belief in the pattern of life. This is someone–face it, the stereotypical atheist from the headlines rather than the peace-filled but scientific mind–who feels rage in the presence of believers, jealous that they credit God with Dr. Cullen Brodie managed to do himself: save a life.
The author also briefly explores an undercurrent of the premise that most people probably don’t imagine: is the recipient of the donation “worthy?” Yes, there are committees to decide a patient’s best chances for long-term survival, and no one wants to think that their organs were donated to a serial killer. But the aging cross-dresser (who’s only recently admitted to himself who he really is) isn’t necessarily the best candidate for the organs, not because his chances of survival are minimal, but because…is this really the best we could do with a heart and two kidneys?
Woven throughout is a highly complicated and melancholy reconnection with an old love interest, one that is designed to rip at the threads that keep Cullen’s heart and mind locked inside a fortress of disbelief. Spiraling the book even more is the fact that the recipient of the organs, already unstable and unsure of himself, is convinced that he has become part of the female donor, that her life is now intertwined with his.
It was a very interesting read, with the only drawback being the long, sometimes winding writing style the author uses for sentence structure. Some sentences required reading once or twice to get their full meaning, but after several chapters the style felt a lot more familiar.
Available now on Amazon: click here.