We first meet Libby as she tells us about being in prison for killing Rose Boston.
Then the story is told from two points of view: Rose’s diary entries to her son Max and Rose’s account of the facts to her lawyer.
Rose is a pilot who has an affair with another pilot in her company, Rob, who is Libby’s husband. Rose gets pregnant, and it is around this time that she and Rob decide that their relationship is too complex and they should call it a day. Rob already has four girls with Libby, and when Rose has the baby, it is the son Rob had always longed for. Rob sees his boy when he can. Naturally, Rob can’t tell Libby about his son, so he keeps a double life. Then Rose becomes feeling sick, and shortly afterwards she is given a terrible diagnosis. She has some sort of sclerosis, which is a death sentence. Rose intends to look after Max as long as she can, and then she knows her son will have to live with his father.
That Christmas Rose plans to tell Rob about some new arrangements for their son, but her decision has to be put forward when she falls in the park. The hospital calls Rob’s home since he has been put as next of kin. He is away working so Libby takes the call. This is the beginning of revelations. Rob brings Max home, and there is a strong confrontation between them. Rob threatens to walk out with Max if Libby doesn’t accept his son.
I think Libby is a very generous. As the book progresses, we see her accepting not only Max as part of her family but also Rose. When Libby meets Rose, she is surprised she doesn’t feel the hostility she expected. There was a connection, and as Rose debilitates and her disease takes hold of her, Libby feels more for her. Libby is so generous that she is the one who suggests Rose should move in with them.
It is hard and sad to read about Rose’s decline. What a terrible disease! It is harsh enough to accept that your days are numbered and you have to let go of your son, but seeing yourself becoming such a waste must have been beyond horrible. It is when Rose attends one of the support groups in which she meets people that are even worse that she comes to a decision. She thinks she won’t be able to hold on until the end, so she decides she wants to die before her time. So after Christmas, she tells Libby that she wants to go to Switzerland and be allowed to die with dignity.
What a powerful plot! I find Libby’s attitude to Rose quite incredible, but I can’t say it can’t happen. I imagine that the reason why Libby is in jail is because she assisted Rose to die. I don’t think she murdered her as she is being accused of. So what went wrong? Why didn’t Rose go to Switzerland? How did Libby agree to help her, risking a possible jail sentence?