The story then alternates between the days after Elle’s fall and the past, where we get to know Elle and her relationship with Matt—all the young love of best friends, to the first sexual encounters, and the first breaking point of the couple. Without spoiling too much, we get to see Elle and Matt grow up together, grow apart, and then find each other again. In between, there are plenty of complications—of new loves, jealously, uncertainty, and frustration. Even when Elle and Matt find each other again, get married, and start a life together, all is not as they hope. Elle discovers she has an autoimmune disease which makes it extremely difficult to carry a pregnancy to full term. After two devastating losses, she and Matt disagree about how to proceed. Elle desperately wants to keep trying—Matt, fearing for Elle’s safety, holds back. That’s why Elle’s pregnancy now comes as a surprise to Matt.
**May Contain Spoilers**
The players: The ensemble of major characters also includes Matt’s mother, Elle’s brother, Elle’s previous lover Adam, and Matt’s pro-life lawyer friend Jake. Matt hires Jake to fight for the unborn child, but everyone else is against keeping Elle on life support, with good reason. Elle signed an advanced directive which indicated she did not want to be kept on life support in the event of an accident which would leave her in a vegetative state. She saw her mother die a slow and painful death on life support and vowed to never put anyone through such a torturous process. However, she was only 18 when she wrote it, and it doesn’t mention anything about if she were pregnant. Matt argues that Elle would have done anything for her unborn child—his mother argues that keeping Elle on life support is against everything Elle wanted for herself, including the dignity of dying as “herself,” especially since the baby’s chance of survival is extremely low.
The question: The conflict in this book, thus, is as much an internal struggle for each character as it is an external one—one that involves the age old battle between pro-life and pro-choice. Matt is so sure that his “Peep” would have wanted the baby under any circumstances. His mother is so sure that Elle wouldn’t have wanted to be kept in a vegetative state. Adam is so sure that he knew Elle best. Jake, a pro-lifer, wants to make a bigger statement while trying to save the unborn child. Who is right? Who is wrong? And most importantly, what would Elle have wanted? The answer lies in a grey area. I loved that Matt’s POV was realistic—he realized that in fighting for the baby, he was also fighting to be able to hold onto a piece of Elle, the love of his life whom he would never get to see alive again. His mother constantly asks him the question, “are you fighting for Elle, or are you fighting for yourself?” Matt is unsure himself, but he is driven for his love of Elle, and ultimately, the unborn child growing within her. I also thought Matt’s reaction to all the pro-life v pro-choice debate surrounding Elle was realistic—he didn’t care about making a statement. He just wanted to save his baby.
Throughout the book, it is important to note that we never lose sight of Elle—she is a constant presence, despite her passive state. From flashbacks, we see how much Elle loved life, loved Matt, and loved the babies that she lost. We see how she’s influenced each character in the book, all of whom are fighting for their own vision of Elle. The characters are at times frustrating, but there is no black and white, no good versus evil here. Except for maybe Adam, whom I just didn’t like at all.
Overall Impressions: I won’t go and spoil the ending for you, but needless to say, I absolutely loved it and I loved this book. I loved that in the end, really, The Promise of Stardust was a love story between Matt and Elle—a chronicle of their lives together from the very beginning to the very end. I loved Matt and Elle as the main characters—they were real to me, their fears and hopes my own as I got to know them and to love them. Every time Matt sat by Elle’s bedside, affectionately called her “Peep,” or remembered any of the wonderful and not so wonderful past moments he shared with Elle, my heart crumbled a little bit. How much I wanted to read that Elle would open her eyes, would hear her husband, would survive the freak accident that landed her in a coma and have the family she always dreamed of having. How much I wanted Matt to succeed in saving the baby—to be able to hold a part of Elle again in his arms, to be happy, and to grow old with his family beside him. The Promise of Stardust is an emotional book, and rightly so. It doesn’t dwell too much on the political debate about pro-life v pro-choice, which I thought was a good direction to take. This was a personal story, Matt and Elle’s story. A story about making choices based on what you think you know about the people you love. And let’s just say, these are some difficult choices to make. The ending may surprise you, or it might not, but if you give this book a chance, you’ll be drawn into a story about love, life, and the sweetest thing.