Review: After The End

I love Clare Mackintosh’s writing so even though this story is very different from her prior novels, I knew I wanted to read it.

Max and Pip are the strongest married couple you know. They are best friends, lovers. Unshakable. But when faced with an heartbreaking decision about their terminally ill son—whether to withdraw treatment or continue pursuing it even at the expense of his quality of life—for the first time, Max and Pip don’t agree. When Max takes Pip and the hospital system to court, they both question not only what will happen to their son, but also what will happen to their marriage.

Yes, heartbreaking. Also gorgeously and compassionately written, with vivid characters that I rooted for. Halfway through the book, the author uses a unique sliding-doors structure to explore what would have happened had each parent gotten their way. Mackintosh beautifully explores the toll it takes on a marriage to constantly worry about a sick child. Everything about this book felt authentic and real, including all the medical aspects. Mackintosh doesn’t give us a fairy tale ending, and yes, part of me wanted that. I closed the book and had to sit with my feelings for a while. In fact, it took me nearly a week to process it enough to write this review.

I found it desperately, desperately sad. And yet there was also remarkable beauty contained in these pages. Mackintosh ends with an author’s note explaining that, years ago, she and her husband had to make the excruciating decision to remove life support from their critically ill child, and every day since, she has wondered if she made the right choice. I imagine this novel was heartbreaking for her to write, but I hope it was also healing.

Highly recommended for readers looking for an emotional and thought-provoking read.

What is the last book that made you cry? Do you seek out tear-jerkers or avoid them?

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