Lisa-Anne Julien

WHY do we do the things we do? What’s fuelling our choices?

Both introspective, soul searching questions are at the heart of Lisa-Anne Julien’s first novel If You Save Me published by Kwela Books. The novel revolves around four men and a little girl and spans three countries: T&T, the UK and South Africa. It centres arounds Carl, a South African, London-based surgeon who performs living donor liver transplants. He has to perform a pioneering surgery and must consider between Joel - an old Irishman and his estranged son Ché who is from Trinidad. Carl’s decision to perform the surgery is really an act of personal redemption. The reason he’s doing it lies in a secret he has kept hidden for 25 years.

Some of the characters in the book know one another but their stories all intersect. The little girl “Promise” who lives in Johannesburg is the granddaughter of Carl’s domestic worker and has quite a role to play in the events that cascade throughout the novel. Carl, the surgeon, is the main protagonist, the character that links all the stories. Each chapter is written from the perspective of each of the five characters who are faced with really difficult choices.

“The characters in the book are all questioning themselves and asking: why do we do the things we do? And why do we decide to sacrifice certain things about ourselves for another person?” explains Julien. This global novel champions the school of thought that we are much more alike than we are different and we have connections that are invisible to the naked eye but are still there and can even influence our actions, the writer adds.

“I wanted to write a story that helps us question the meaning of our life and what we can do to make our life more meaningful,” she says.

Given her schedule, it was often difficult for Julien, a consultant with a non profit organisation, to carve out time for fiction writing. She wrestled with the novel since she began the first draft in 2015. After several rewrites Julien is excited about the book’s upcoming release, so is the South African publishing house Kwela Books.

Rites of Passage

The imagery, environment and ambience of If You Save Me has been largely influenced by Julien’s travels.

“The places I’ve been and the places I’ve seen are all there in the book in very detailed ways,” she says. The writer and professional consultant was raised in Mayaro and St Augustine but she has spent more time abroad than she has in Trinidad. Julien left T&T at the age of 21 and lived in New York for three years, she then packed up and moved to the UK where she lived for six years before relocating to South Africa where she has been since 2002.

“Within every one of those experiences there have been rites of passage I have gone through and many lessons I have learnt about myself. But South Africa was where I developed into a professional consultant in the nonprofit sector, it’s where I found my voice as a writer, it’s where I got married, divorced, and where my children are being raised. It’s where I’ve faced harsh truths and realities about life, love, the world, relationships, motherhood and making a living. I’ve also discovered Buddhist teachings and meditation which are a huge anchor in my life,” says Julien.

If You Save Me will be released on July 21, it will also be available as an e-book on Amazon.

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