Review: Before I Go by Colleen Oakley

December 29, 2014 Gallery Books 2

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books (January 6, 2015)
  • ISBN: 9781476761664
  • Source: Publisher

Twenty-seven year old Daisy beat breast cancer three years ago.  Before she can celebrate her most recent “Cancerversary” with her husband Jack, is dealt devastating news. Her cancer has returned; this time an aggressive form of stage 4 cancer that has spread throughout her body.   There is no fighting this round; she only has months to live.  Rather than being concerned about her own mortality, she’s worried about Jack.  Who is going to take care of him once she’s gone?  He can’t cook, he can’t even remember to put his dirty socks in the laundry.  After much thought and contemplation, the answer is clear: Daisy must find Jack a new wife before she dies.

She begins scouring coffee shops and sets up online dating profiles, all without Jack’s knowledge. Daisy is certain he would be adamantly against what she was doing.  The hunt is not an easy one and, when a potential candidate comes into their lives, Daisy begins to question the sanity of her mission.  One thing is for certain: this mission is taking her mind of the inevitable, but is it causing more strain on her relationship with Jack than good?

In my quest to read books outside my typical comfort zone, I accepted the review pitch for this title. Even as I read the summary I questioned my decision. It’s certainly not my kind of book. In the beginning, I was quite irritated with Daisy (and with Jack). Both are adults, yet Daisy seems to be the only one mature enough to lead an adult life. And Jack? I just wanted to grab him by the shoulders and shake him. He’s an intelligent, attractive man. At this point and time in his life if he can’t take care of himself, no one can. For Daisy to spend her remaining time obsessed with finding her own replacement just baffled me.

As I continued to read, I overlooked the flawed characters and instead focused on the message Oakley was trying to relay: seize and savor the moment. While it was remarkable that Daisy wanted her husband to be cared for after her death, she was losing precious time and memories with him. He tried to arrange special dinners and time with her, but she shrugged it off.  The time spent searching for his new wife would have been better spent with him, savoring their last moments together. She needed to have faith that Jack would, and could, survive without her.

Needless to say, I was bawling by the end. Told largely from Daisy’s point of view, in monthly increments, the reader is aware the end is nearing. We know Daisy’s prognosis. While I was hoping there would be some miracle cure, I’m glad Oakley didn’t take that route. Instead, she created an incredibly heartfelt and believable story.

This is certainly not a book for everyone.  While it is full of heartbreak and loss, the heartfelt and memorable moments, and outcome of the secondary characters, make the read well worth it.  Oakley does’t focus a tremendous amount of time on the disease itself, or on Daisy’s symptoms. Instead, she focuses on the characters, and their journeys.  I’m glad I took a chance and picked up this book. It’s certainly made me contemplate my own life and where my priorities lie. Highly recommended.

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