Heather Fegan Reviews a Valuable Read for Patients and Caregivers
HARP: The People’s Press
Songlines is the third of a trilogy of books inspired by young people with cancer. These stories of adolescents battling life-threatening illness are aimed at both caregivers and care receivers. Author John Graham-Pole is a retired pediatric oncologist, and co-founder of Harp: The People’s Press, dedicated to highlighting the healing arts and the arts for health equity.
Songlines is a touching story about final-year university students (and couple) Ellen and Jonah, told from Ellen’s perspective as she navigates the cancer journey–the songlines, if you will—with her boyfriend, his family and their friends, as Jonah is diagnosed with a brain tumor. Songlines certainly strikes a chord. In facing Jonah’s life-threatening illness, Ellen and Jonah’s love grows and blossoms.
Ellen is an aspiring med student. She, Jonah and their friends are part of a choir that performs in the hospital. They have patient buddies they spend time with, to provide company.
The story moves briskly through this cancer journey, spanning one year. It’s not so in-depth as to overwhelm, but provides enough context to understand what is going on and learn some new medical information. It also provides enough context for the reader to become attached to the characters.
The story focuses on the beautiful concept of caregiving. This theme weaves throughout the book through many different relationships.
Songlines is a valuable read for patients and families, doctors, nurses and all kinds of caregivers. It would be an interesting read for students thinking of pursuing the medical field, as a peek into that world.
Heavy at times, Songlines is also uplighting, filled with music, humour and tender, beautiful moments. A line from the book that stands out is when Ellen says, “Music can sure shake the emotions of hiding.” Music can evoke tears, smiles and heartaches. In this case, it can carry folks through a life-changing journey.