Many people might classify “Vital Signs” as a gloomy novel, shaped around a marriage that’s falling apart and is only restored when tragedy strikes. However, I’m going to beg to differ, I found the story to be gripping at times and a very real depiction of dysfunctional marriages. To be fair, I’m very lucky in the fact that I’ve grown up around marriages that involve trust, respect and an admiration for one another. Ironically, with the divorce statistics being as bad as they are, my parents and many of my friends parents are happily married.
In this story, Mike and Anna have been married for many years. They’ve produced three children who help shape this story, Fred, Charlotte and Sasha. When Anna starts to speak sentences that make little to no sense at all, they are all concerned. Learning quickly that her ability to communicate effectively is caused by a brain aneurysm that could cause her to die instantly, Anna’s family, including Mike are forced to come together and figure out some kind of solution.
Knowing that his wife could lose her life in an instant, Mike is overwhelmed by a surge of guilt. His guilt is derived from his many indiscretions he’s committed throughout their marriage. The anxiety he feels about whether or not he should confess is enough to make him lose his ability to communicate with his family, even though he has the ability to speak openly and freely. He searches to find a way to communicate with his wife in a way that will make them find a common ground that they once shared. Using his graphic artist capabilities, he uses drawings to speak to his wife, drawings which are shown to the reader throughout the novel.
Tessa McWatt has written a novel that keeps it real, she doesn’t shy away from picking apart this marriage and exposing every flaw that has shaped it over the years. However, I think that if you look really hard between the pages (and the drawings), you’ll be able to find an unconventional love story while reading “Vital Signs”.