We should all be so lucky to have a Sasha in our lives. Best friends since elementary school, she and Raquel are inseparable. Even when Sasha is dealing with a cancer diagnosis, Raquel is by her side through it all. She thinks she’s prepared for anything, but really she’s not. When Sasha eventually dies, Raquel is lost. Until the letter arrives.
It seems that, while Sasha was preparing herself for her eventual death, she was also preparing Raquel for life without her. And not just Raquel, but also her brother who she hasn’t seen since they were adopted by different families as very young children. Through a series of letters, Sasha helps them come to terms with her death.
This was such a heartbreaking story while at the same time being so full of hope and optimism. Raquel’s sadness at losing Sasha, her happiness at discovering Sasha’s letters and clues…my emotions were all over the place with this one!
Won’t lie, parts of this short novel were a bit hard. My father died of cancer. Cancer that started in the lungs and metastasis to the brain. When I read Kalanithi’s words about fatalities of that type of brain cancer…well…it was a like a punch to my stomach.
I was a bit gobsmacked at times reading this. I mean, when we are talking about brain surgery a mm can mean life or death, functional or nonfunctional. I just can’t even imagine the skill it must take. I found most fascinating Kalanithi’s reasons for choosing this field. The concept of our minds and actions just being a byproduct of our brains…well, that might seem simple in concept but I still find the entire concept too all-encompassing to grasp.
I hate what happened to Kalanithi and his family. What they went through, I mean, how could anyone not? I would have loved to read a b by book by Kalanithi that wasn’t sure to end the way it did. I found his subject matter and how he discussed his cases and brain surgery fascinating. I wonder if he would have been a different type of writer had he not had cancer. Was his writing style and his reflections modified because of his diagnosis? Did his future make him more humane? Please, understand, I’m not trying to imply that he was anything but compassionate before…I…well…maybe I am kinda wondering if he was less compassionate before….not by a conscious meaning to be…but just by the circumstances of that type of work. Of any type of work really.
If any of us were to sit down and write about ourselves and our current path, wouldn’t it be different from the words we were to write if we knew our death was imminent.
I’m glad I read this book. It gave me so much to think about. It offered insights I’m not sure I’ve had before…but I would have loved to read a different type of book by Paul Kalanithi as well…for so many various reasons…
Until next time…
Review copy provided by Netgalley for an honest review
This book is a lot of work to read. It’s emotionally taxing (although I didn’t even cry until near the end) and, frankly, depressing. Anna is dying of cancer. And that’s no spoiler, pal. That’s the premise of the book.
Before Everything is also about love and friendship and family and a few secrets. Victoria Redel designs Anna’s friendships so realistically that the secrets the women have make me remember secrets I have with my friends … not contrived or hyperbolic or beyond belief, but just stuff we know about each other because we’ve been friends for so long.
I read this book in hopes that I’d come to a better understanding of what it’s like for the family of a person dying of cancer. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let myself feel it 100%. So instead I read with my shoulders tensed, my mind rushing to get to the next scene, and only half my heart with Anna.
It’s a good read if you can let your guard down. I held back because otherwise it would’ve been too painful. Thinking about that, well, maybe I did learn what it’s like to be close to someone who’s dying.
Funny. Sad. Relatable. Unbelievable. This book covers all this and more. And then it goes back and repeats.
Lenny has a lot going on in her life. A LOT. Her dad is dying from cancer, mom is a busy attorney who uses her job to escape that harsh reality, and sister Emma is away at college. That leaves Lenny to deal with the day to day stuff. Still, she’s in denial about how sick her dad actually is. She copes by keeping a list of all the different ways there are for the world to end. Oh and her crush on one of her dad’s doctors.
I went back and forth on how much I enjoyed this book, alternating between liking it very much and just liking it. It’s good, heartbreakingly so at times. But there are some underlying issues I didn’t feel good about. Lenny’s behavior at times borders on mentally unstable. Understandable with all she’s dealing with but still. And her obsession with the doctor is over the top. Nevertheless it’s a good read, a realistic picture of life and dealing with death.
This is a really nice book. I can’t fault the writer at all. However, I have to say it was gut wrenching for me. Schwalbe and his mother had a very special bond. Hell, from what I grasp, she had a special bond with everyone she knew. She seemed like she was a truly amazing person.
The part that was really hard for me was the dedication Schwalbe had for his mum. No, it wasn’t a bad thing. It was an amazing thing. When my father died, I can’t lie, I was, perhaps more devastated by my lack of involvement in his final days. That is so very hard to write. To admit to. Sure, I can blame circumstances. Being in a different country, blah blah blah, but that doesn’t ease the guilt one feels. Then to read a book where Schwalbe went to such great lengths….well it was very hard. Yes, he was lucky. His mum was lucky. We can all say, well, he had a job that allowed him to be by his mother’s side so often. That’s all. He could afford to spend 5 hours a day with her when she was having treatments. He could call her a dozen times a day. Reality is more simple than that though. He made it happen. Amazing sacrifices he made to make sure his mother was surrounded by love in her final years…
I’m jealous of his dedication. Of his courage. His sacrifice. Of those hours, days, weeks, months, and years he had with his mum at the end. Reading this book made my gut clinch with my own guilt…I miss my dad…I wish I had been the kind of daughter to him that was like the son Schwalbe was to his mum…I wish I had that opportunity…
Dying isn’t funny. Or at least it shouldn’t be. But somehow this wonderful little gem of a book makes it so.
Libby’s perfectly crafted world comes to a crashing halt in the span of less than a day. Not only does she find out that she has cancer, likely very quickly ending her life, but she also finds out that her dear husband is gay.
So she does what any of us would do in that same situation. She quits her job, which she hated anyway. She kicks her husband out and sells their apartment. She purges herself of all her worldly possessions and takes a lengthy trip to the Caribbean. Make perfect sense, right?
She soon finds out, however, that simply crawling into a corner and waiting to die isn’t as easy as it might sound. She has a brother and father who both love her dearly. She finds herself relishing the simple things in life, such as the feeling of warm sand between her toes. She strikes up an unlikely friendship with her elderly landlady.
And then there’s Shiloh, the handsome pilot she finds herself falling for. When he discovers that she plans to give up without putting up a glimmer of a fight, he quickly lets her know that’s not an option.
Make no mistake, this is a romance story. But it’s also a funny story, one about family and bouncing back. It’s a story about not giving up regardless of the curveballs that life inevitably throws your way. The writing is witty and wry, and the characters are so likeable that you almost forget that it’s a work of fiction. A fun, inspiring read!
If you’re into YA genre this book is perfect for you. Predictable in parts, but not in others. I appreciate that Wildenstein kept this book honest all the way through. She didn’t try to make us feel better at the end and protect her readers from real life as so many others do.
If I have any complaints, I suppose that I wish she had left out some of the smaller side-stories and focused more on Ghostboy. The concept of “Ghostboy, Chameleon & the Duke of Graffiti” was brilliant. I absolutely loved it and how it came about. I feel the smaller side-stories going on with all of the friends, perhaps took away from the main focus of this novel. It’s not that I minded them. I just felt at times that we could have better understood the connection between Ghostboy and Duke and Chameleon if we had more time to share with them and to see the relationship develop. I would have liked to see another 200 pages of the adults in the story and the three main characters….
I realise that 320ish pages is the magic number for novels for the last 20 years…I just wish this one gave us a wee bit more….As much as I enjoyed this story, I just left it feeling a little sad and unsatisfied. Not because of the ending but because of the lack of depth I felt from the characters. Just like Ghostboy fades and goes invisible, I knew that all these wonderful characters were there, but they too were fading in and out of focus…I just needed more to solidify them forever in my heart…
Until next time…
Review copy provided by Netgalley for an honest review…