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Likely Stories - Never Let Me Go

During the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine, some people learned to make sourdough, and some learned to paint. Me? I read books. I'm Emma Weidmann, the Arts and Life Editor at the Baylor Lariat, with this week's edition of Likely Stories on KWBU.

The Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro never went to boarding school, but in "Never Let Me Go," he constructs Hailsham, an idyllic private academy in the English countryside. His imagination is as close as anything - green pastures, babbling creeks, cozy bunks. The children are special, accessing an outstanding education at Hailsham, encouraged to make art and grow deep relationships with each other. But there's something dark moving underneath the surface.

Kathy, a 31-year-old carer and the novel's narrator, has a job that comes with a countdown. Each student from Hailsham becomes a carer for a few years after graduation, and it isn't very long after that they will soon begin donations. What it is that the Hailsham students must give up, and why teaching them to make art was so important for the Hailsham professors, is what you spend the majority of the novel trying to figure out. When you do, you will never be the same.

Kathy is able to stave off her first donation because of her skill in her job. She has an empathy that comes easily to her and makes her a natural-born caregiver. But after 12 years in the job and her hourglass running out at the end of the year, she begins to reflect on her time at the boarding school when she is reunited with her childhood best friends, Ruth and Tommy, who have both already made multiple donations.

Reflection leads to some deeper, darker realizations, and the trio works against the clock to try to change their fate while healing from their past as well. "Never Let Me Go" is one of those books that you just can't seem to forget. Its characters are so real that they're almost photographic, so true to life and so achingly human in the search for their humanness.

The novel itself is an existential exploration of what it means to have a soul and to have lived. It questions what our purpose is on this planet and follows these three children as they become teenagers together, grow into adults separately, and meet again in depressing circumstances. You'll search for hope with Kathy, Ruth and Tommy and feel the urgency of their search for answers alongside them.

When I read this book, I think about those prehistoric cave paintings in Lascaux, France. I think about the painted handprints - red, orange, brown, big and small on the walls of a cave in Argentina. Since the beginnings of human history, we've always used art to try to prove that we were here, stamping our hands on rock to affirm our existence for millennia to come. This is the endeavor of Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy. If you'd like to join the three on their search for love and meaning, pick up "Never Let Me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro.

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Emma Weidmann studies English Literature, Journalism and French at Baylor University and is an editor for the student newspaper, the Baylor Lariat. She has always been a reader and a lover of music. While as a journalist, she enjoys finding stories that are really happening, there’s still nothing like a good book. Her favorite genres are contemporary fiction and literary nonfiction.