Edward Docx’s "Let Go My Hand" is a road trip story with a difference

The narrator and his half-brothers are driving their father to Zurich for an assisted suicide, and pick over their family history on the way
July 20, 2017

Let Go My Hand by Edward Docx (Picador, £16.99)

Edward Docx’s fourth novel is a road trip story with a difference. The narrator, Louis, and his twin half-brothers, are driving their motor neurone disease-afflicted father to Zurich for an assisted suicide. As well as dissecting the ethical dilemma at hand, the men pick over their family history: the dad was far from perfect, so the filial tenderness is punctuated with bitter reproaches.

Their journey towards mutual understanding is rendered with humour and emotional insight, but clichés abound. One of the half-brothers is a dedicated family man while the other is an inveterate bachelor, so there is a lengthy discussion on the relative merits of their lifestyles. The father, an erudite old-school intellectual with leftie leanings, complains about social media and is resistant to sat nav, whereas his sons are practically nihilists by comparison.

Louis is in his twenties, so it is perhaps in the service of millennial realism that Docx’s narration deploys a conspicuously regressive register: things are variously “weird” and “insane,” or else hyphenated daisy-chains substitute for adjectives (“a can-you-believe-any-of-this expression,” “all the what-other-people-think stuff,” a “call-me-if-ever-you-need-advice wink”). There is certainly something to be said for how such disarmingly twee prose can provide a way into difficult subject, and Let Go My Hand succeeds on its own terms as a poignant affirmation of love and togetherness.