I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.
I love books about death. This is a random statement to make, but I’ve always loved reading about death and dying main characters in books. It’s always these books about death, the ones you’d think are all doom and gloom, that are the most life affirming.
Read on to find out if I enjoyed Death and Other Happy Endings as much as my other SickLit books.
There’s nothing like being told that in three months you’ll be dead to make you think about what you really want in life
Jennifer Cole has just been told that she has a terminal blood disorder and has just three months to live–ninety days to say goodbye to friends and family, and to put her affairs in order. Ninety days to come to terms with a diagnosis that is unfair, unexpected, and completely unpronounceable. Focusing on the positives (she won’t have to go on in a world without Bowie or Maya Angelou; she won’t get Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s like her parents, or have teeth that flop out at the mere mention of the word apple), Jennifer realizes she only has one real regret: the relationships she’s lost.
Rather than running off to complete a frantic bucket list, Jennifer chooses to stay put and write a letter to the three most significant people in her life, to say the things she wished she’d said before but never dared: her overbearing, selfish sister, her jelly-spined, cheating ex-husband, and her charming, unreliable ex-boyfriend–and finally tell them the truth.
At first, Jennifer feels cleansed by her catharsis. Liberated, even. Her ex-boyfriend rushes to her side and she even starts to build bridges with her sister Isabelle (that is, once Isabelle’s confirmed that Jennifer’s condition isn’t genetic). But once you start telling the truth, it’s hard to stop. And as Jennifer soon discovers, the truth isn’t always as straightforward as it seems, and death has a way of surprising you.
Jennifer Cole is a 43-year-old divorced HR professional who’s told she has a rare blood disorder and only 90 days left to live. Needless to say, Jennifer is shocked. She went in with tiredness and was diagnosed with a ghastly “-osis”.
Discovering she only has 3 months of life left, having no bucket list to tick items off of, instead, she decides to confront three people. She writes them each a letter detailing all the things she wished she’d said to them but didn’t because of her own need to not ruffle feathers. She mails the cheating ex-husband who strayed instead of supporting her during her three miscarriages, the ex-boyfriend–a guy her friends thought was toxic–who she let go without a fight, and a sister who constantly put her down growing up and had no respect for her. How she then copes with the aftermath of the letters, the diagnosis, and suddenly speaking the truth forms the rest of the story.
Death and Other Happy Endings works because of how realistic it is. It has one of those premises where you wonder what you’d do if you were in a similar situation. I’m sure most of us would say we’d travel during our last months on Earth. But none of us are dying, are we? I always thought it was just something we say but would never do if the situation came to pass. Jennifer’s explanation on why she won’t do this is extremely realistic and practical–she may not have symptoms now but what if she gets very sick and needs a hospital?
The beauty of this book is in how it transforms the tragic into happiness, how it shows that the worst thing to happen to you can also be one of the best. This diagnosis makes Jennifer say all the things she was too afraid to say to people who hurt her, it makes her do things she never would have done in her pre-diagnosis life, and the best of all, it brings her much closer to her girlfriends and other unexpected people.
Books about death have a way of teaching you about life itself. Death and Other Happy Endings is a veritable potpourri of love, loss, friendship, and the little joys and sorrows that go with life.
With all its life lessons and signature dry British humour, this book is a dynamite debut by Melanie Cantor. I can’t wait to see what other feel-good, humorous books she comes up with next!
Rating: 4 out of 5