Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Before I Go

The plot for this book seems clever: A young woman is diagnosed with a terminal cancer and has just a few months to live. Before she dies she wants to find a new wife for her husband so that he will be happy and cared for after she dies.

That seems the conceit for a chick flick, right? You can imagine: feisty heroine, selfless love, and the requisite funny, sidekick best friend who is in on the plot. It’s all silly but sad matchmaking, and even a “Terms of Endearment” sad Mom as well.

And in Colleen Oakley’s first novel, “Before I Go”, all of those elements are present. You
might even assume, as I did, that this would be a relatively light-hearted (it’s always relative with cancer and death) book. And it does start out that way.

But then, the writing takes off as the story gets tougher and our happy (dying but sassy) heroine begins to show us the realities of knowing that you are really, really dying.

A scene that I loved: She is telling us about the romance novels that she watched her mother read when she is growing up and how she just assumed that as she got older and her hair got gray that she’d read romance novels too. But then it hits her, “But my hair won’t gray. And my skin won’t wrinkle and I may die without having ever read a romance novel….and this, this! is what makes me start to cry. And it occurs to me that if I were to write a “Coping with Terminal Cancer” pamphlet, this is what I would cover. Not the obvious stuff about anger and bargaining but crying over bodice rippers in a suburban mall at 10am on a Monday morning.”

And the search for her husband’s next wife? Oakley takes us from a silly conceit to the depth of mixed feelings for both partners when a spouse is dying of cancer.

I definitely recommend, “Before I Go.”

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