The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone

Received from NetGalley for review.

4.5 stars

‘This is not about dying. It’s about living. Do you understand?’

I think we can all understand and appreciate the ultimate message of this book: life is for living and loving and enjoying all the snow globe moments along the way, even when things are hard or sad. I lived and loved this story so deeply and I can barely untangle all my feelings to create a cohesive review – it is a wonderful and heart-breaking and important story that I loved from start to finish. There is just the right amount of everything – laughter, warmth, heartbreak, and grief, to make the story heart wrenching but ultimately uplifting and hopeful. Be prepared for your heart to break over the characters and their different stories but go read it, it’s worth it.

The Loose Ends List is about seventeen year old Maddie’s Gram, Astrid, who is dying. She is the centre of the family, the glue that holds everyone together, so naturally her family is confused and hurt when she announces that she will be dying at some point over the next eight weeks. She takes most of her family on a death-with-dignity cruise, which allows patients and their families to have one last hurrah where the patient is able to die on their terms (and I think that it’s an excellent idea, for the record). It’s not necessarily an easy book as you know people are going to die and you’re probably going to be attached to the characters and their stories before they go, but I thought it was beautiful and real even with all the grief attached. There’s also an abundance of love, sex, drink, drugs, and general mischief, all of which provides comic relief from the reality of death.

‘You’re a wise old lady, Astrid North O’Neill.’ I lean over and kiss her cheek.
‘Who’s calling me old, you little shit?’

The characters are wonderful. Astrid is the kind of Gram everyone should wish for – brash, to the point, eccentric, and loving. She was so unapologetically herself, as were the majority of her family and I loved how loud and outrageous they could be. Maddie, the narrator, was a character I struggled with at times – she had a tendency towards the selfish and overdramatic but I could understand where she was coming from a lot of the time as it is so hard losing loved ones, and I think I would find it hard to keep it together in that same situation. There is romance (obviously) with Enzo, which seems a little too much like insta-love at times but I enjoyed it regardless. To be perfectly honest, I loved everyone in this book. Kudos to the author for the making the book mostly sex positive (except one incident where Maddie asked Enzo if he thought she was a slut because he assumed she’s wasn’t a virgin – silly Maddie) and generally free from judgement (again, except Maddie who is made of raging teenager hormones and grief and really struggles throughout the cruise).

Personally, I think everyone should read this book, tears be damned. There is so much to love and such a brilliant message to take away from it, to grab life with the balls and have no regrets when it is your time to go. Life is for living, so go live it.

‘That’s how life works. The pain of losing doesn’t get less with each person I lose. But I have the wisdom of knowing the pain isn’t forever. That fades. The memories stay. And love isn’t going anywhere.’

Read: May 16th-22nd 2016

4.5/5 stars

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