THE DISMANTLING by Brian DeLeeuwThe Dismantling by Brian DeLeeuw
Published by Penguin Group USA on April 28th 2015
Pages: 288
Genres: Fiction, General, Medical, Suspense, Thrillers
Paperback provided by TLC Book Tours

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How much of yourself are you willing to sell? Brian DeLeeuw hits that sweet spot between literary and commercial suspense with his brilliantly adept, ingeniously plotted novel--a chilling, fast-paced drama that urges readers to question the meaning of atonement and whether revenge might sometimes be the only way we can liberate ourselves from our past. Twenty-five-year-old med school dropout Simon Worth is an organ broker, buying kidneys and livers from cash-strapped donors and selling them to recipients whose time on the waitlist is running out. When a seemingly straightforward liver transplant has an unexpectedly dangerous outcome, Simon finds himself on the run. In order to survive, he must put aside his better moral judgment and place his trust in a stranger who has a shocking secret. Praise for The Dismantling: 'With its high tension plot and atmosphere of unease, The Dismantling is a morally ambiguous thriller in the grand tradition of Graham Greene and Patricia Highsmith. It has smart things to say about memory, redemption, and what it's like to live in a world where everything is for sale, but it says them by telling a gripping story.' Christopher Beha, author of Arts & Entertainments 'Intense, spare, and unflinching, DeLeeuw's The Dismantling treads risky, ethically nuanced territory, exploring the nature of absolution and revenge, the lies we tell our families, and the honesty we can find with strangers. A psychologically insightful, gripping novel.' Michaela Carter, author of Further Out Than You Thought 'While this is a fast-paced, engaging thriller, it is also much, much more. It is, at its heart, a fully and tenderly rendered exploration of loss and shame and the deep yearning for some manner of redemption. It is about the difficult choices put before us--and that might very well damn us--when possible redemption is close at hand.' Thomas O'Malley, author of This Magnificent Desolation 'A whip-smart modern noir. Brian DeLeeuw's writing is as keenly intelligent as it is eerily propulsive.' Jennifer duBois, author of Cartwheel

Reading time 4 mins

The Dismantling got me thinking about the lengths people go to for money. How much is one life worth? What would you be willing to do to survive. The lines between right and wrong get stretched and tested in this book. I just finished this book, but the story and its ethical questions have haunted me.

Simon just dropped out of med school. Haunted by images of his dead sister, he could no longer do the things required to finish school. When a colleague offers him an opportunity to put his knowledge to good use arranging live organ transfers,  it was almost too good to be true. He arranges for a woman named Marie to give part of her liver to an alcoholic ex football star to save his life. This job gets him almost enough to be free from loan debt, one more job and he can start over. Everything is going according to plan until it isn’t. Everything that could go wrong does when the transplant recipient becomes national news.

The good: This story is told in third person narrative. Which is easily my favorite style of storytelling. It is a pretty good thriller. I enjoyed reading Simon’s story. The narrative flashbacks one little piece at a time so we can understand why Simon is grieving so much for his sister. He feels partly to blame and it taints everything he tries to accomplish. Once I read his whole story, I felt really bad for him. His career choice is less of a choice and more convenience of circumstance. I can’t say i would have taken the high road in this situation. I don’t know that anyone would when the deal is so sweet. So let me be clear and say that I would have done exactly the same thing as Simon. I agree with the logic of allowing people to make their own choices.

Maria is an illusive character, and the mystery of her story kept me wondering. There were some tough issues debated in this fiction. How much is one life really worth? What is an organ worth if it saves a life? With a guy inside setting up the transfers the lies seem too easy to make. I could completely understand how the right thing could be so blurred when miracles, life, and death are so close at hand. If that seems confusing, well I’m sorry. This story is still so fresh and I am still trying to process it.

The bad: Maria’s character. Her back story doesn’t get revealed until way past the 50% mark. I was a little frustrated that her story and motivation were not more forthcoming. What kind of girl doesn’t need to tell someone the contents of her head? While I mulled this over, the fact that she is way far from normal started to creep in. I don’t know that I liked such a bad-ass woman lead. Simon looked really weak compared to Maria, and that bothered me because of her childhood compared to his.

There really wasn’t enough details for me to give these characters depth. They didn’t have enough emotion to pull off their stories. I wanted more reaction from these characters. Simon and Maria had no life that the reader can envision, just the scenes they show up in and the dialogue. Simon had a lot more than Maria, but I don’t really get her. As a result of flat characters, the story dragged a bit.

Conclusion: Even though parts of this were slow going, I am glad I stuck it out to conclusion because I had a lot of unanswered questions. I still have unanswered questions but now they nothing to do with the characters, or their motivation. I get that. I am just left with the moral dilemmas they faced. I know what I would have done, I just don’t know if I am on the correct side of right.

My Rating

 About the Author

Brian DeLeeuw is an editor at Tin House magazine and a contributor to the website He received his BA from Princeton University and his MFA from The New School. He now lives in New York City, where he was born and raised.
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