Mend the Living is the story of a heart transplant, centred around Simon Limbeau, the boy whose heart is given, and his family.
Taking place within exactly twenty-four hours, the novel traces the thrill of an early-morning winter surf session, the terrible accident that follows, and all the urgency and compassion of the hospital workers, and shock and grief of Simon’s family as they negotiate the question of organ donation. Maylis de Kerangal offers glimpses into the thoughts and affective lives of each of the characters: Simon, at the core of the novel; Marianne and Sean, his parents, who have been estranged for some months; Revol, the chief surgeon, music enthusiast, and studier of hallucinogenic plants; Cordelia Owl, the capable new nurse who is reeling from a night spent with her former lover; Thomas Rémige, the hospital coordinator, an opera singer, and aficionado of goldfinches; Virgilio, the silvertongued, light-fingered surgeon; Juliette, Simon’s girlfriend, who is building a labyrinth inside a Plexiglass case, waiting for Simon’s call.
The novel also touches upon Claire, the recipient of the heart, whose life has been limited by her condition, who reflects philosophically on what it means to have someone else’s heart beating inside you.
Weaving from hospital corridors to the wild waves of the Atlantic, from the narrow streets of Paris to the countryside in Algeria where goldfinches still sing, from the most intimate details of grief within a car in Le Havre to universal considerations of science, compassion, and humanity, Mend the Living is a powerful and vast-ranging book. In her trademark masterful use of language, playing with pacing and tension and a vibrant vocabulary, Maylis de Kerangal gives us a metaphysical adventure that is at once both collective and intimate.