Registered nurse Priscille Sibley dissects the complicated ethics of two divisive arguments—the right-to-die and a woman’s right to choose—in her heartrending debut novel, The Promise of Stardust.
Was there one particular trigger than inspired this book, or was it a culmination of your experience?
As a registered nurse, I’ve never encountered the scenario in my novel, but I have seen a similar situation, one involving a young child. Many times in the course of my career, that time especially, I found myself wondering about the limits of medicine and if we sometimes prolong life longer than is in the best interest of the patient. Certainly these factors influenced The Promise of Stardust, which is about a family at odds as it navigates through a medical crisis. But the novel is also the love story of a husband wanting to do the right thing for his beloved wife.
The way you navigate both arguments—to die with dignity and the pro-choice/pro-life battle—highlights the complexities of all sides of the issues. Did you ever feel pressured internally or externally to take more of a stand for one or the other argument?
I went into the story with my own set of opinions, but burying myself inside the skins of my characters turned into a lesson in empathy. I don’t believe the answers are simple or black and white. However, it has occurred to me that someone or some organization might take strong exception to what I’ve written. These are divisive issues in this country. But I did not set out to write a political statement; I wanted to write a human story.
Did you ever consider a different ending?
It’s so difficult to discuss the ending without giving it away. Although I didn’t outline when I wrote it, I did know more or less what would happen. For example, I knew that the woman’s injuries would not miraculously heal. But, yes, the outcome of her pregnancy was subject to change. It didn’t end exactly as I thought it would initially, and there were other changes later during the editing process.
What are you working on now?
My new novel is contemporary fiction that, like The Promise of Stardust, involves an ethical dilemma—albeit a very different one. I enjoy putting characters in situations where there are no easy answers, and it is something I’m excited about exploring.