Well I’ve now realised why it’s a bad idea to use the back of the book to decide which book to read, as the major ‘surprise’ plot point was given away on the back of the book, even though I read almost 200 pages before it was revealed in the book. It kind of spoilt it because I spent 200 pages waiting for it to happen.
I’m going to give away spoilers now though, so if you don’t want me to spoilt the book for you in the same way, I’d stop reading now.
The book is about Callie, a happily married mum to two kids, with a sister she is very close to, and two parents that she loves (even if they haven’t loved each other since they divorced 30 years ago). As I mentioned before, the first 200 or so pages of the book were spent introducing you to all the characters and setting up the little side-stories. Callie is experiencing some headaches and dizziness, and then at Callie’s birthday, her husband raises a toast to Callie for her birthday and for hitting the 4 year all-clear mark from her treatment for breast cancer.
But while out shopping with her mum and sister, Callie gets dizzy while driving and ends up on the wrong side of the street. She is forced to go back into hospital, where her deterioration is rapid. She’s weak and losing hair and weight so quickly that it shocks everyone. Then comes the shocker that we’re not prepared for. Callie has a disease that happens to about 5% of breast cancer sufferers called Leptomeningeal Carcinomatosis. The worst news – it’s untreatable. Callie has a year, tops, but worst case it could be as little as 4-6 weeks.
Cue everyone else miraculously sorting their lives out before anything bad can happen, suddenly Steffi has found the man of her dreams, Lila is pregnant and Honor and Walter (Callie’s parents) are back together again.
And then, no matter how much hope we are given that it might not happen, Callie passes away. Now I know that this may be a hard part of the story to write, but it felt kind of like a cop-out. We get one page about Callie having died, and then we skip to the epilogue one year in the future, to let us know how fine everyone’s lives have turned out. It felt like an anti-climax, after 400 pages of build up and we have a one-page conclusion and then a short epilogue written to give the story a happy-ever-after kind of feel.
I did enjoy the book, and it was genuinely heart-breaking, especially when you find out at the end that the author’s friend died age 43 from the same illness. The story of Callie is not the story of Heidi, but Jane Green wrote the book and dedicated it to her friend.
I’d give it full marks if it wasn’t for the slightly disappointing ending, but I’d definitely recommend the book if you’re not afraid of having a little cry.