What to say about this. Really I should have been reading between Christmas and New Year – but as it had potential to be a weepy, I thought mixing it with nightshifts was a bad idea. I had a meltdown over a relationship break-up at the start of a book during some nightshifts, so I thought I ought to avoid a book about a woman dying of cancer! So, well rested and as emotionally stable as I ever get (that is to say, prone to tears when sad things happen or when people die in documentaries, even when I know it’s coming) I started in on this on commute to work. And it nearly had me crying on the train not once, not twice, but three times. On three separate train journeys.
Now I know what you’re saying: “Verity, why didn’t you stop reading the damn book on the train?” And the simple answer is that I couldn’t. I had to know what happened next – how it all worked out for Rabbit and her family – and as I was on late shifts, the train was the only place where I was going to get a chance to do that. But I did learn something – by the third train journey I’d scaled back the eyeliner and switched to waterproof mascara!
To go back to the beginning – The Plot. Rabbit Hayes is dying. She has cancer – it’s terminal – and the end is rushing towards her faster than anyone wants. What will happen to her daughter Juliet? And to the rest of her tight-knit family? But even though her mum and dad are still searching for a miracle, the reader always knows what’s going to happen to Rabbit.
Now I know that makes the book sound like a real downer – and like I said, I was in tears in places – but here’s the thing. It’s not. It’s funny and it’s rude and, most importantly, it’s life-affirming. By the time it’s over, Rabbit may be gone – but you know that it’s ok and it’s going to be ok for everyone else too. She was the glue that held her family together, but she’s helped them find a way to make it work without her. And I don’t think that’s a spoiler. You might cry for Rabbit – and be sad that it ended this way for her – but you’ll come away better for having known her.
I don’t usually do weepies. The Boy is still borderline grumpy with me about the 2am crying fit that ensued at the end of The Fault in Our Stars after I insisted on staying up to read it to the end (Me: “I’ll have horrible dreams if I leave them like this” Him: “I don’t think reading til the end will make your dreams any more cheerful”). There are a few books that I’ve studiously avoided reading because I know that they’re sad – and although I’ll read pretty much anything, I’d rather twiddle my thumbs than read anything from the “Tragic Lives” section of the bookshop. But this had such good reviews – and people whose books I love had raved about it – so I took the plunge, and I’m so glad I did. Perhaps there are a few more books out there that I’ve been avoiding that I should be getting involved with. But maybe not on the train!
You can buy The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes everywhere. It’s in Richard and Judy’s latest Book Club picks, so it’s in the Buy 1 get 1 for £1 promotion in W H Smith (or at least it was on Saturday), I’m expecting it to be all over the supermarkets and the high street book shops, but if you can’t wait or can’t be bothered to leave the house, you can buy it from Foyles or Waterstones or Amazon or Kindle or Kobo or my page on My Independent Bookshop (which gives money to my local Indie).