Book reviewer and film critic Jack Anthony interviews author Cheryl Kaye Tardif about Whale Song, the Controversial Novel that Explores Assisted Suicide
Jack Anthony (JA): Whale Song seems at first an innocent, sweet and poignant tale with a hint of mystery. But there is a darker side to this novel―the shocking assisted suicide of a key character. What compelled you to tackle such a controversial and emotional topic?
Cheryl Kaye Tardif (CKT): Assisted suicide or assisted dying is one of the most horrifying scenarios a person could imagine. That’s why I tackled it. The morality surrounding assisted dying has been questioned by human rights activists, the legal system, religious organizations and the general public for decades, and it is an issue that has fascinated and saddened me. In countries such as Switzerland and Belgium, assisted dying is legal, while in Canada and the US, it is illegal. Headlines have blasted us with stories of people like Sue Rodriguez, a Canadian who fought for right-to-die laws to be changed but then lost, and the infamous Dr. Jack Kevorkian, an American doctor who invented a self-inflicted lethal injection dubbed ‘the suicide machine’. Kevorkian was released from prison in June 2007 and promises to fight for reform.
The disturbing subject of assisted suicide/dying prompts readers to question their own beliefs. If a person you loved was dying, with no hope for survival, with only a life of pain and agony ahead of them or a lifetime of vegetative coma, could you pull the proverbial plug? Should you help them die with dignity, or shouldn’t you? And if you do, how do you live with yourself afterwards? These are the questions I wanted to explore in Whale Song. I am drawn to writing stories that make us question our beliefs, our laws and our very existence. Whale Song started from one thought: What would happen if someone felt compelled to ‘pull the plug’…?”