Please Undo This Hurt by Seth Dickinson

Please Undo This Hurt by Seth Dickinson
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (30 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Ever feel like you care too much? After a breakup, after the funeral…it feels like the way to win at life is to care the least.

That’s not an option for Dominga, an EMT who cares too much, or her drinking buddy Nico, who just lost his poor cat. Life hurts. They drink. They talk:

Nico’s tired of hurting people. He wants out. Not suicide, not that – he’d just hurt everyone who loves him. But what if he could erase his whole life? Undo the fact of his birth? Wouldn’t Dominga be having a better night, right now, if she didn’t have to take care of him?
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And when Dominga finds a way to do just that, when she is gifted or armed with a terrible cosmic mercy, she still cares enough to say:

I am not letting him have this. I am not letting Nico go without a fight.

Some problems loom so large they feel unfixable. Are they, though?

The character development in this story was well done. Both Dominga and her good friend, Nico, were dealing with painful life experiences when the audience first met them. They were muddling through the stages of grief as best as they could, but they were clearly struggling with their losses. Sometimes flashes of their previous selves poked through their sadness, and I smiled at the joy they’d both known. They were still the same clever and thoughtful people they’d been in the past, but it was interesting to see how they’d changed since their lives became more difficult. There were so many layers to these characters that I can’t explore all of them in one review, but I was quite pleased with how much effort Mr. Dickinson put into describing them and their journeys to us. He did an amazing job.

I would have liked to see a little more time spent developing the solution Dominga found for the angst she and Nico felt. It was such a unique idea, so I was a bit surprised by how quickly the characters brushed over exactly how it would work and where it came from. If more care had been taken in this part of the storyline, I would have easily gone for a five star rating. Everything else about it was perfect.

This was one of the best descriptions of what depression feels like that I’ve ever read, and I’m saying that as someone who has personal experience with the topic. One of the hardest things about this mental illness is how emotionally exhausting it is. Things that made someone happy before they became ill can now feel impossible. Dominga and Nico knew this feeling all too well. Her descriptions of trying to drag her and her friend through ordinary life experiences made me nod in empathy. They were dealing with a sickness that seems like it will last forever. More than anything, I wanted them to find relief from it. The deeper they fell into depression, the stronger my desire became to see what their fates would be.

I’d especially recommend Please Undo This Hurt to anyone who is feeling burned out or mentally exhausted.

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