When Susan Jenkins is diagnosed with stage IV cancer she, and her wife Ali, must deal with the consequences, not only of the terminal diagnosis, but of the end of their life together, their hopes and dreams. Susan is the stoic planner who accepts what is coming, fights it as hard as she can, but also prepares and plans for her end and for her wife’s future. With gentle persuasion she forces Ali to promise she will at least try to open her heart again in the future.
The is an excellent, well written and deeply moving story. In the first half we live with Susan’s diagnosis, treatment and gradual decline, heart-wrenching and yet heart-warming. It is handled with such compassion that while it will choke you up it is also so gently done, and represents the best possible terminal care anyone could dream of, that Susan fades away almost on her own terms.
Susan and Ali dominate these chapters, well drawn, deeply emotional, extremely real. It is almost a two person tragedy as we see the drama unfold, only Susan’s nurse, Blair intrudes, and then largely as a foil to Ali’s grief. Susan gentle, caring, the homemaker and manager, Ali, more mercurial, less able to control or show her emotions, but whose actions speak so loudly of her love.
The second half see’s Ali trying to find a way through life without Susan. Now we have a story about how somebody comes through grief, the impact on her work, and the gradual emergence back into the light. Again excellently written, deeply emotional, Ali’s ups and downs, despair and guilt, acceptance and re-emergence are portrayed with empathy and understanding.
I literally couldn’t put this down. It was one of the most engaging stories I have read for a long time and both the tragedy and the romance captured my heart and mind; both had me in tears. I haven’t read Ms Highton-Stevenson’s first two novels, but I will certainly be looking out for her next release.
Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.
(publisher review copy received)
To buy from Amazon.com – click here.
To buy from Amazon.co.uk – click here.