I'm Still Here (Je Suis Là)

Imagine being trapped in a coma, in a body that can neither perceive nor respond to touch, but which might feel and rely on the stimuli of "sound" for a connection to the outside. There is no bright light, no lucid dream, just the sickening desire to avoid the uncertain fate that a prolonged period of being "off" would entail--the declaration of death. This is what Prix Nouveau Talent Award-winning writer Clélie Avit has imagined in her tactile and vivid fiction debut, a sweetly narrated love story.

An ice bridge collapses on a mountain climbing trip, and the anchor that secures Elsa to the lead climber fails, plunging her several hundred feet down to the hard snow. She has now been in a coma for five months, having regained her auditory sense only in the last six weeks. On her birthday, Elsa receives a visit from Thibault, a young man who is avoiding his brother, who is in the same hospital after a drunk driving accident resulting in the death of two teenage girls. Thibault initiates a one-sided conversation with Elsa that finishes with a kiss to her cheek. His uninhibited discourse excites Elsa, and Thibault returns over several weeks. He is beginning to fall for his silent companion, even as doctors are pressuring Elsa's parents to pull the plug.

Avit's deft writing gives Elsa's interior landscape a colorful and addictive joy that pulls on the heartstrings. I'm Still Here is a wonderful story from a new and emerging voice. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

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