Last week I took part on a listenalong organized by the Tandem Collective UK. There were several bookstagramers on this one, mostly from UK and the book was “After The End” by Clare Mackintosh. I knew this book was not another thriller like her previous books. I knew this was inspired by a personal story, as the author had shared with me on her interview last summer. I knew I would need a few packs of tissues and I was all in reading it. Despite my sobbing throughout a big part of the book, it was a read I totally and truly enjoyed.
Max and Pip are a strong couple, the strongest one you know. They are not only a married couple, they are best friends, they have everything you could ask for. But then their son gets really sick. Before Dylan reaches three years old, the doctors request them to make a decision on his life. Should they keep life support on, or should they let him go in peace? It’s the first time that Max and Pip don’t agree on what’s best for their son. The first time they don’t agree on how to proceed with such an important decision.
What if they could have both? What if the made the right decision? What if they made the wrong decision? What would that mean for their little family? For themselves? For their son?
As a parent, dealing with such a sickness is devastating. But what keeps you going is that you want the best for your child. You want your child to survive and live to see the world, to see the sun rise, to make their dreams come true and be happy and live a healthy and prosperous life. You want so much more for your child that you could ever possibly express with words. You want your child to live a better life than you did. But in time like this, you need to decide what’s better for your child. Without knowing for sure what the future brings, without knowing for sure if there is a chance on a cure, on a better life. It’s a decision hard to make, one that could rip your heart apart.
What happens when the parents have a different view on what is the best way forward? It’s so much more difficult. When , no matter their past, they disagree on something so important, then their relationship starts to tremble. It’s not solid any more. They start to accuse each other of not wanting the best for they child, as each one believes that what they support is the best option. Until the decision is taken by someone else entirely and they have to respect it.
Mackintosh wrote this book providing the different perspectives of the parents and sometimes also that of the boy’s doctor, Dr. Khalili, a woman who works hard to provide Dylan with the best care he could have and always thinking of his best interest. The author also provides the “After” reality, after the decision is taken by that third person and how everyone reacts. As time goes by both Max and Pip question themselves. Have they made the right decision for their child? Was the other option the one they should have made? The “what if” are there to hunt them but they can never know what would possibly happen either way. Only what has happened. There are some things that are not avoidable.
However, this whole process has made an impact on their relationship. They lost what they had, who they were. Will they be able to find it again? Was it really fate that brought them together, as they initially thought? Or was it something completely else?
This is by far one of the most emotional books I’ve read the last few years and it is not only because of the sick child, while it did play a very important role. The way Mackintosh describes human relationships is one that will have me thinking for a long time. This book will not leave my mind easily, it will keep me company for a good while.
I would like to thank Little, Brown Book Group for my #gifted copy. It is one of my best reads for this year. As soon as you get your hands on it, please do read it!