One night Henry, an American dealing drugs in Montreal, makes a wrong turn. Heading the wrong way down a one way street, he runs over Natalie, who is pregnant and waiting for a cab to take her to the hospital. After leaving her in the street, Henry feels guilt and tries to find out what happened to her. It turns out she survived, but the baby did not. Although the baby is dead, it hasn’t been delivered because of Natalie’s need to recuperate. Henry’s sense of guilt leads him to eventually connect with her, even though she does not know he is responsible for what has happened. In him she finds a kind person who unlike her husband gives her room to grieve. They seem like two souls destined to be together, except for the truth that stands between them.
The High Cost of Living takes us into the struggle of these two people. Natalie struggles to come to term with the death of her child even as she continues to carry it inside her. Henry struggles to do the right thing. Even though the bond between them is circumstantial and only Henry knows the truth, they are able to aid one another in the difficult roads each walks.
Once Natalie determines he husband is not a help, she really has nowhere to go. All her friends have children, which only adds to her sense of loss. When Henry steps in to save her from a woman who thinks she is being responsible by challenging Natalie about drinking while pregnant, Natalie discovers someone who seems to accept her as she is. He doesn’t mind that she will not change her shirt because she cannot bear to see the bruises on her abdomen. He take her in when she feels she has no one to turn to.
Henry begins simply trying to ease his conscience. For him, doing the right thing starts off as self-centered. If he can do something good, maybe he’ll feel better. As time goes on he realizes that the right thing to do will not be what heals his guilt, but what will be healing for Natalie – and that may be very costly.
What is it that makes someone a good or a bad person? Henry may deal drugs, but he does have principles. He only deals in FDA approved prescription drugs which he has smuggled in from the US long ago. After the hit and run he wants to make things right somehow, but really doesn’t know how. He becomes reflective: “Sometimes I wonder how I got to be this person. Maybe you’re just the sum of a bunch of bad choices.” He has indeed made many bad choices, but maybe he can learn that it’s not too late to make good choices. They may not make up for the bad choices, but just making good choices can be transformative.