Exploring themes similar to those often found in Jodi Picoult stories, Margarete Cassalina’s wonderful novel, See You at Sunset, addresses children’s life-threatening diseases, fractured families and lost love.
The driven Dr. Alex Morgan, chief of Westchester General Hospital once stated: “Can’t let what I can’t fix keep me from fixing what I can.” But now that he’s dead, he’s a relaxed spirit who—though still watching over the whole operation—is no longer on call. Now he has endless time to attend to Jenna, his favorite patient in Room 313.
Initially, Cassalina spins a few separate stories about young patients and their families. Gradually, their seemingly disparate stories all lead to Jenna, the central character. A 12-time denizen of Westchester General (jokingly nicknamed “Club Med”), 13-year-old Jenna is a marvelous character, a smart, brave, precocious, giggly little girl who is afflicted with cystic fibrosis. The illness may threaten her life, but she refuses to let it take over as the story explores the idea of opening yourself up to love and joy, no matter the consequences.
Although the novel is primarily set in current time, it sometimes flashes back to the ’70s/ ’80s. Host/narration duties generally, though not always, fall to dead Alex, who usually adds a wry take at chapter’s end. His voice is breezy, confident and highly likeable, which is cleverly contrasted against the arrogant, cold demeanor of the earlier, living Alex; in fact, it takes the girl of his dreams to finally crack his stony façade.
Descriptions are top-notch (“breath always smelled like a eucalyptus cough drop”); dialogue is character-specific, and the well-researched medical terminology—the author has two children with cystic fibrosis—offers clarity without overkill.
See You at Sunset tears at the heart, coaxes a smile and strongly suggests that, unlike the renewed spirit of Dr. Alex Morgan, we may not get the chance to find a happier life in the afterlife. Best to appreciate the here and now—right here, right now.
Highly recommended for fans of Jodi Picoult and Nicholas Sparks.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.