⇒What is your life’s crossroad and which new beginning will you choose?⇐
After the End is my second #Julybrary book. I’m celebrating libraries in July by checking out all of this month’s reads from my local library shelves!
Author: Clare Mackintosh
(4.31 stars – Goodreads rating)
Genre: Fiction / Adult Contemporary
Published June 25, 2019, by G. P. Putnam’s Sons
Over the last few months we have learned that hope is one side of a seesaw balanced by despair; too quickly tipped from one to the other.
Before I begin this review, I have to warn that it may inadvertently contain spoilers. I’ll definitely try my best to keep them out, but in case I miss something, just know that you’ve been warned.
Like 90% of other reviewers of After the End, I found it incredibly hard to make it through this book. It isn’t a happy story. Period. But I’m sure it also wasn’t an easy story to tell – especially by an author who had to make this terrible decision irl.
Here’s the book blurb: “Max and Pip are the strongest couple you know. They’re the 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?”
Sometimes you only know for certain if you’ve made the right decision once you’ve made it.
Within a few pages of the very first chapter of this book, I knew it was going to be a rough read for me. Riddled with personal triggers which acted as emotional landmines throughout nearly all 400 pages, it both started and ended in uncertainty. This story has some serious triggers for sensitive readers: cancer, kids with terminal illnesses, and other triggers that I can’t even mention without spoiling some parts of the plot.
There were many times when I considered not finishing this book. It was, at times, difficult to turn the next page. Dylan’s condition was heartrending, and his parents’ predicament was one no parent should ever have to face. But my difficult decision was to keep reading, and I managed to do it, but not without being deeply affected.
Turns out you can hate what someone’s doing, yet still love them so much it hurts.
Once I was able to separate myself from the story (cancer is a strong trigger for me), I was able to better appreciate the flow and artistry of this difficult story. And then, when the court decision is made and the author introduces two alternate realities along two different timelines, the complications only intensify.
If you’ve read anything by Clare Mackintosh before, I can tell you that this book is not like any of those. I don’t understand why Goodreads lists it as a thriller– it is more like a slow burning emotional suspense novel. The decision of life and death hovers over the entire first half of the book, and little or nothing can be more suspenseful than that.
In the second half, the suspense comes in with Max and Pip making decisions that will take them into the next phases of their lives. Neither portions of the book are comfortable to read and at times I felt my inner reader screaming at both of them. But, here again, is a decision that no one can say is the right one unless you’re living it.
But when you stand at a crossroad you cannot see each destination, only the beginnings of the paths that will lead you there. All you can do is choose one, and walk, and hope that someone will walk with you.
OK, so let’s address the elephant in the room– why only 3.5 stars? It is, by no means, a bad book. It’s beautifully and sensitively written. Even in the midst of horrible circumstances, Mackintosh gives all her characters meaningful and unique personalities and perspectives.
But the hard parts of the book never let up and the ending doesn’t bring the relief or closure that I felt I needed as I closed the back cover. Not every reader feels this way, and I think it’s definitely proof that this book affects everyone very differently.
It’s possible to look without seeing. To act without feeling. You just have to close your heart for a while.
Clare Mackintosh spent twelve years in the police force, including time on CID, and as a public order commander. She left the police in 2011 to work as a freelance journalist and social media consultant now writes full time. She lives in North Wales with her husband and their three children.