By Chung Thong En (22S06N)
Raffles Reads is a collaboration between Raffles Press and Times Reads which aims to promote a reading culture among Singaporean students.
Rating: 3/5 stars
Unfortunate real-life circumstances made Idayu Maarof, Malaysian author and general practitioner, write a second book after her first award-winning work.
Maarof is a Malaysian General Practitioner (GP) who had previously published another work, The Doctor Is Sick, which won an Anugerah Buku Negara (National Book Award, Malaysia) in 2017. In A Consequence of Sequence, she is put through the wringer again when she starts having seizures again after the surgery that was supposed to solve them—and this time, no one can figure out the cause. Faced with a quickly worsening and possibly fatal illness, all she can do is try for surgery again and pray that things will get better.
Similar to The Doctor is Sick, the book is an autobiographical account of Maarof’s experience with a terrifying illness and how she survived it. As Maarof is a GP herself, the book not only gives the perspective of a patient knowing they might die soon, but also a doctor just trying to do their best.
In addition, A Consequence of Sequence also brings to light a human perspective: the sadness and desperation of not only Maarof, but also her family. A few chapters in the book are written by Maarof’s loving husband; in them, his worry and care—that he may lose his wife to her steadily worsening unknown disease, that their children would be without a mother—shines through.
Unfortunately, this book being entirely non-fiction means that it is difficult to embellish details, or change the pace of events. While the pain, fear and struggle to hold on to hope may have been a rollercoaster as it happened, to readers, the suspense of each twist and turn is undermined by the fact that the book exists in the first place—meaning that whatever happened, Maarof turned out relatively fine in the end.
In fact, the narrative is written exactly as what Maarof describes her experience to be: many chapters of practically no plot progression before the emotional climax and movement towards actual recovery happen in short order with the surgeries and all that comes after. Art imitates life, which is not surprising, given that this is a faithful account of the entire ordeal.
Credit has to be given where it is due, nevertheless, and Maarof does her best to spice up the narration, enlivening even the arduous lull between exposition and actual action without purposely dramatising her experience, or making up events.
This book has no thrilling conclusion, just an acknowledgement of the struggle and a testament to the hope Maarof and her family had to fight to keep. After all, this book is about the journey of accepting and surviving an unknown disease. It is about learning to be grateful for the people around you, when you may never open your eyes to see them the next day. It is not simply about the physical pain of being ill.
This book simply was not my usual fare, but it is a good read for those who have the time to digest each part and emotional detail. Perhaps if I had read The Doctor is Ill beforehand, or if I was a medical student, I may have appreciated this book more. Nevertheless, A Consequence of Sequence is a meaningful story worth reading.