It was a sad book, something I wouldn’t dare to re-read but glad anyways that I have read it. I remember reading ‘We Need to Talk about Kevin’ by Lionel Shriver and having the same feelings; as a parent, the book was so hard for me to read and yet, I was awfully glad I had read it. Wise Before Their Time is totally different in context from Lionel Shriver’s. It is a difficult book to read not as a parent but as a sensitive person.
The first edition was published in the time when AIDS was still considered a tabooed subject; being tested HIV Positive was an automatic death sentence and a social stigma; no one wanted to get associated with HIV Positive people. To read the book at the time it was published for the first time would have been, an altogether, a different experience. Things today have changed so much. The patients can talk about it openly. Access to antiretroviral drugs has become easier. HIV Positive people can live a better, healthier and a normal life. So in that context, this second edition of Wise Before Their Time serves an altogether different purpose: The feelings: what the patients feels, what kind of impact being tested positive makes on them, how they come to term with living with the disease, how the fear of isolation, rejection haunts them? The following lines from the poem ‘If You Want to Love me’ from the book beautifully sum up all the emotions in a few words:
If you want to love me
Then love me now.
Don’t look for tomorrow
And don’t ask me how.
I can’t give you a guideline
It is your love,
It is you.
Difficult times brings out either the strength or the weakness in a person. The person never stays same. He either becomes bigger or smaller. And it was heartening to learn that most patients after being tested positive came out stronger, wiser, and more mature.
The author, through interviews with patients, has presented an honest, moving picture which touches a reader’s heart. Do read this book. If not for anything else then just to understand and appreciate the beauty of being healthy and being alive!
Avira N, author of YOU left me, sweets, two legacies: Famous Love Poems