Bibliophile | Nick Trout embraces life in ‘The Wonder of Lost Causes’

The Wonder of Lost Causes
by Nick Trout
Allen & Unwin

Veterinarian Dr Kate Blunt is an overworked single mother who runs an animal shelter. After the short relationship with a fellow vet student who didn’t want any part of their baby’s life, Kate accepted her role as sole-caregiver, but life is not easy as her son Jasper was born with cystic fibrosis.

Kate laments that for parents of children with cystic fibrosis, there are three constants – fear, guilt and doubt. The other constants are continual vigilance, medication and the occasional hospital visit, though Kate tries to keep things ‘normal’.

Keeping things ‘normal’ is Kate’s way of staying grounded, though she does have the help of some prescription medication that hasn’t actually been prescribed to her. Most of the time, it’s Jasper who is actually worried about his mum who doesn’t seem to be able to relax.

The chapters swing from Kate’s story to Jasper’s story, so the reader is allowed to get into the heads of both. Jasper shares his cystic fibrosis journey – “One time a doctor suggested I learn how to meditate, saying it would help me breathe in stressful situations. What a plonker. You try to relax and ‘open your mind’ when it feels like you ran a hundred-metre sprint with your nose pinched shut and a plastic straw duct-taped to your lips.”

When a stray black dog at the animal shelter forms an attachment to her 11 year-old son, Kate tries to resist having to care for the dog as well as her son. The neutered male Whistler is covered in scars – “a history of previous troubled lives written in permanent aberrations on his body”. The most concerning scars are from where duck tape was used to wrap around the dog’s muzzle to prevent him from barking, so Whistler doesn’t bark.

So, both Whistler and Jasper are ‘different’ but that is not all there is to them. As Jasper says, “people get so hung up on different, sometimes it’s all they see”. Animals can heal hearts and bodies, and, with the help of Jasper, Whistler takes us all on a fantastic journey that teaches us about our humanity and how to fully embrace life.

Lezly Herbert