Shortlist year: 2017

Shortlist category: Fiction

Published by: Hachette Australia

Evan is a nurse, a suicide assistant. His job is legal . . . just. He's the one at the hospital who hands out the last drink to those who ask for it.

Evan's friends don't know what he does during the day. His mother, Viv, doesn't know what he's up to at night. And his supervisor suspects there may be trouble ahead.

As he helps one patient after another die, Evan pushes against legality, his own morality and the best intentions of those closest to him, discovering that his own path will be neither quick nor painless.

About the author

Steven Amsterdam

Steven Amsterdam is the award-winning author of Things We Didn't See Coming (winner of the Age Book of the Year, shortlisted for the NSW Premier's Award for Fiction and longlisted for The Guardian First Book Award) and What the Family Needed (AWW Great Read and longlisted for the Dublin IMPAC literary award). He lives in Melbourne with his partner where he works as a palliative care nurse.

Judges’ comments

The Easy Way Out dramatises a topical issue with striking qualities of imagination, humanity, intellect and humour.

Set in a recognisable yet somewhat dystopian near-future, the novel is narrated by Evan, a nurse who works as a dying assistant under a new law that allows voluntary euthanasia for the terminally ill. However, legalisation does not dispel all ethical and emotional questions.

As Steven Amsterdam shows in a series of death-bed scenarios, the decision to end a life – even one’s own – is not always simple, and bureaucratic regulation makes it far from easy. Evan must walk the line between compassion and professionalism. In his private life he distances death through physical encounters with his friends Lon and Simon. And as he cares for his own rebellious mother, Viv, his principles are challenged and his motivations revealed. Amsterdam makes no judgments on a contentious subject but draws on his work as a palliative care nurse to portray the medical settings and challenges in convincing detail. He goes well beyond “case studies” to bring to life idiosyncratic characters in dynamic relationships.

The present-tense narration is vibrant, with a lightly modulated tone that allows readers to laugh as they contemplate life’s most serious questions in a sophisticated novel that is both thought-provoking and moving.