After The End

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Max and Pip are the strongest couple you know. They're best friends, lovers—unshakable. But then their son gets sick and the doctors put the question of his survival into their hands. For the first time, Max and Pip can't agree. They each want a different future for their son.

What if they could have both?

A gripping and propulsive exploration of love, marriage, parenthood, and the road not taken, After the End brings one unforgettable family from unimaginable loss to a surprising, satisfying, and redemptive ending and the life they are fated to find. With the emotional power of Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper, Mackintosh helps us to see that sometimes the end is just another beginning.

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary

Author: Clare Mackintosh

Hardcover, US Edition, 400 pages

Publishing Date: June 25th, 2019

Publishing House: G.P. Putnam's Sons

ISBN: 0451490568 (ISBN13: 9780451490568)

My Review

Tragic. I am mush. My heart is aching 💔. This book is gut-wrenching and incredibly compelling. Experience all the feels stretched beyond the limits you ever thought will bring you to your knees just reading the story.
Mackintosh wrote this novel undoubtedly insightful with uttermost care yet as real as it ever could be.
THIS will go on my 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ book list of 2019.

My time of reading any kind of self-help books has gained interest and flourished in my twenties, peaked for a few years then diluted with life and by now has long gone. If to gain information about a subject matter, feel better equipped to deal with challenges, gain perspective, reflect and meditate positively over life's big questions they have been a great source of encouragement and support.

Swimming through the pond called life, finding purpose and settling down hopefully goes smooth sailing if you have conquered some of the usual highs and lows of growing up....until you come upon a cross-road, AKA a punch in the gut, a life-altering occurrence, a devastating threat, loss or change. Until this happens, you just never know how much and in what way such a blow can impact your life and entire being. There isn't a way to ever be fully prepared no matter how many books you have read to do so.

In the case of this novel, it is about a happy young family life broken by a cancerous tumor, a brain tumor in Pip and Max's almost three-year-old son Dylan. As if the disbelief, long months at the ICU and surgeries weren't enough, given the circumstances, Dylan's prognosis isn't well.

Pip and Max are an amazing couple. He is from the US, she from England. They met on a plane, settled in England, are best friends, deeply in love, worked out their work schedules and happily created their little home and family.

Working through their son's illness and processing the situation differently, they are confronted to make a decision about Dylan's life at a crossroad, they end up disagreeing about the future care of their son.

After The End reads in alternating views of Pip, Max and the treating doctors. Nothing short of devastating, the journey of Dylan's life and or care is told in each of their perspectives from beginning to end. The joys, struggles, hopes, their memories of happy times and sad moments are captivatingly told. At times too much to take.

Dylan's life is in the hands of his parents. Either he is to be left in peace in palliative care until the end as the doctors suggest or undergo a private, very expensive treatment in a special facility in the US.

Both parents want the best for their child, but that may mean something different to each of them. Both of them are torn, hurt, worried, sleep-deprived, edgy and their different opinions put a big wedge into their relationship. They can't find peace in the others proposed decision. A judge is to declare the fate of their son after hearing the brief presentations of different treatment options by specialists.

Cleverly, the novel continues here in alternate outcomes. After The End is an amazing way to demonstrate the situation from all different angles in different scenarios. Sadly, the extremely strenuous situation is often too much for a couple's relationship. This would certainly parallel with other difficult circumstances and the novel shows the unravel of a relationship and life in such delicate and painful steps, it is simply heartbreaking.

After The End continues with a different tone at midway through. I agree with other readers that the first part was absolutely excellent of a novel, perhaps better than the rest, but I stand by my high rating as a whole because that second part of the book focuses on the actual unravel/undoing of the life of the parents. A closer look afforded into the shattered hearts and minds of Pip and Max as individuals.

A message to the reader is easily understood, a stance can be taken for either parent. Life isn't black or white, nothing is ever positively only one way solvable. The repercussions of the road not taken vs the one taken brings forth questions, regret...maybe understanding? Love and life endures and continues, perhaps in different ways. Maybe there's a breaking point of being: at the one before and the one after.

Either way, this novel reached me deeply and is hitting too close to home. Perhaps because I have been at difficult crossroads before, but certainly because I know I will be facing huge medical decisions of a loved one with a very rare genetic disease. This may have influenced my thinking, or perhaps I stumbled upon this novel at the right time and will draw from it when that time comes. There is always the knowledge and certainty, even if it seems unfair at that time, that life all around will continue and pass by while not a soul around you knows your pain and struggles. And individually we all grieve differently and at different rates of time. Mackintosh's story of Pip and Max was as real as it ever could be to me.

If you can handle such a stirring, emotional, raw novel, then please give it a try. It is nothing short of moving through and through.