Taylor has a history of running away when things get tough, but she can’t run away from the terrible news her father just received: stage 4 cancer, too late to treat, less than four months to live. Her parents decide to take the family to their summer lake house for the first time in years, where Taylor will not only face her dad’s decline, but the mess with ex-friends that she left the last time she was there.
This book tore me apart. I didn’t expect it to. At first it started out as a fairly typical coming-of-age-with-tragic-twist sort of idea. Taylor’s past with her old friends was revealed slowly, in flashbacks, for a good bit of the book, which seemed to drag out the suspense needlessly, and I got a little bored with that particularly part of the plotline. However, after about a third of the book, I started getting really involved with the story. I came to like Taylor, her family, and her friends. And more importantly, as her dad’s health got worse and worse, I began to really feel the pain the family went through.
It wasn’t just Taylor’s pain. She was the narrator, but I found myself seeing the people around her even more than her. I’m not sure if the author grew up with a ballet dancer or not, but I did, and I have to say that she got Taylor’s little sister, Gelsey, just perfect. I was cracking up every time I came across Gelsey throwing her leg up on the porch, for example, doing practices while her older brother paced around her, avoiding getting kicked. My younger sister was always doing little ballet moves, from sitting in a splits while watching a movie (“It’s comfortable!”) to throwing her legs up while she did dishes to doing body-contorting stretches everywhere we went, and Gelsey was exactly the same. That detail helped to make the book more personal to me, made it closer to my life. Then, whenever I saw what Taylor’s mom was going through, her husband slowly slipping away, the book was brought home to me in another way, and I found myself trying to avoid the “what if” thought with regards to Jason and my own three kids. I thought of the slow way my grandfather died a few years back, and how my cousins are now without a mom after she lost a long battle with her heart a couple years ago. I thought about how my parents and Jason’s parents are getting older. And so on.
Normally, I am fairly good at shielding myself from thoughts of death. I have a tendency to morbidly obsess if I don’t wall myself up. I can feel sad when characters in books die, and sometimes I even cry about it. But this book did more than just make me cry. It got under my skin. It made me wish I hadn’t taken so many moments with the people I love for granted. It made me miss my kids, who are spending a couple nights with their grandma. It made me want to get off the couch and go hug Jason tightly, and tell him sorry for any time that I took him for granted or got mad at him for stupid silly reasons. It made me realize what is sometimes easy to forget when you’re just trying to get through life day by day – I am so lucky to have such a wonderful family and all this love around me.
And then, last night, it infected my dreams, and I spent the entire night dreaming over and over that I was about to die, and was having to say good bye to all the people I love, especially my kids, trying not to think about all the things I would miss seeing, and all the times they wouldn’t have a mom around to take care of them. I kept waking up crying, and I can’t hold back tears even as I’m writing this all down.
Like I said, this book really tore me up. It may have started out feeling like a million books I’ve read before, but in the end, it wasn’t typical at all, and it touched me in a way I can’t remember any book touching me for a really, really long time now. That’s all.