Life In Death – M Ullrich

Life After Death - M UllrichThis is a powerful and moving book about two difficult subjects written in an unusual and clever style. Mary and Suzanne Dempsey are happily married, settled and solid. Then their adorable daughter Abigail is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Suddenly their almost perfect world is torn apart and rather than pull together the cracks deepen, almost unimaginably ending in divorce. But Abigail’s death, while devastating, also brings Marty something she has given up on, the glimmer of hope.

We are told up front the calamitous tragedy of the novel in a surprisingly revealing blurb that removes the suspense. But this book is all about the ‘how’, and while the blurb removes the factual anticipation, it in no way diminishes the emotional impact of those events. In addition the loss of a child is such a trigger the author and publisher no doubt felt it critical to pre-warn ‘romance’ readers of the content. And yet this is, truly, a romance.

Life In Death is an intriguing read. A serious psychological exploration of how a tragedy can impact the lives of a couple; how they react is the core of the plot. At first we aren’t engaged, Abigail’s illness understandably dominates and her Moms seem almost like cyphers with whom we have little empathy. But as the ‘plot’ develops Mary and Suzanne are filled in, each woman’s coping mechanisms drawn out and analysed through the impact their actions have on the family catastrophe.

Core to the break up is the interesting concept of who is to blame. The obvious culprit who fails into a moment of needy infidelity, or the guilt ridden wife whose own self doubt destroys the connection between a loving couple. And once seemingly destroyed, can that connection ever be reforged.

Add into this an unusual writing style where the then and now are literally woven together, with a flashback and a current scene in every chapter and this is simply a fascinating read. Despite the complex timeline we never lose where we are, the point of view is clear at all times and the plot flows effortlessly back and forward. I might have put the infidelity before the reconciliation to push the emotional tension higher, but this plot never loses its sense of anticipation. A genuine page turner that pulls you in, twists you up and makes you desperate for the happy ever after on offer.

My first book from this author and it certainly wont be my last; one of the best books of 2016 without a doubt. Such a joy to discover a ‘different’ romance with more mature women going through a real life scenario and an author who gets her teeth into gritty and difficult subjects with style and grace. Absolutely excellent reading.

BTW – I have tagged this 40+ because of the maturity, the exact age of the MC’s is irrelevant – VL


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(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes (October 18, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01M0R6716
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