After the End – Clare Mackintosh

I needed time after finishing this book to get over it.  I both loved and hated it for the same reason.

I was expecting a similar style read to the authors previous books. Phycological Crime thriller. This was completely different. It was emotional, thought provoking, and heart wrenching, but beautiful.

Often authors stay true to their usual genre, and this shows that Clare Mackintosh can make any story gripping and relatable.

We follow parents Pip and Max along with their son Dylan through the worst time of their lives – Dylan is in the child’s care unit with a brain tumour. Hes had surgery and treatment and there is light at the end of the tunnel.  His mom has left her job and is with him, all day every day, whilst his dad is trying to keep his job – with a boss that’s less than sympathetic, travelling all over the world and not home to spend time with his family as much as he would like.

The doctor that was are following has her mother visiting, who wont leave the house and has a QVC addiction. One morning Leila comes off her bicycle on the morning cycle to work, and is rescued by a paramedic who becomes her friend.  He understands her work, her life and how hard the job can be, so when she confides in him it makes the world seem better – just for a while.

By a couple of chapters in you are emotionally involved with this book, and its characters, they feel like people you know and care about. You want things to get better for them,  for Dylan to come home and be okay.  I really struggled with this book because when I started to read it I had not long learned I was eight weeks pregnant and if Im honest there was a lot of things I had yet to think about. We were still in the shocked and excited phase, thinking more about baby names and nursery colours than the harsh reality of what can happen. This book covers childhood cancer, babies that just stop developing, spina bifida and simpler things like asthma attacks that can have huge impacts. All of a sudden it was like someone was trying to talk me out of becoming a parent and telling me that its not worth it – the heartache, the sorrow and pain that can come with, and replace the joy of being a parent. It was a little scary, and made me want to stop reading and say, no this book just isn’t for me right now.  It did make me wonder how I would have felt if Id read it a year ago when my own baby to be wasn’t a factor.

The book is split into two parts and this is all part of the before. Please stop reading now as there are spoilers below if you don’t want to know what happens.

The before ends with Dylan coming off of the ventilator, and unlike the times before hes okay. Pips thinking about bringing him home, then Leila destroys their world and tells them the tumour has grown, and they need to make a decision. Do they want to keep Dylan alive, with a low quality of life, or is it better to let him go.  Instantly the parents want to keep him alive, there must be a cure, or something. You can feel the desperation.  When they come back to tell the Doctor that this is their decision Pip has changed her mind. She wants to take away Dylans pain and let him be at peace.  This causes a rift between her and max, and the trust and the courts have to step in, mediate and make the choice for them.

The second part of the book confused me to start with.  But I quickly picked up it follows both Pips choice to let Dylan be at peace, and Max’s to take him to Texas for treatment. The timelines are slightly out and it becomes a sliding doors style book.  It allows easy comparison of their lifes, how each decision affected both of them, and what their lives become.  It follows the ups and downs, and shows that no matter how much you may believe in your choice, it can bring about regret. Simple things can cause all of your emotions to come to the surface, and you have to manage and control it.

What happens in both versions is devastation, in this story Dylan was never going to survive. It wasn’t medically possible. It shows the toll it can create on a relationship when something like this happens, not just with your partner, but with everyone around you. People change and you learn who your friends really are.  The end is a ray of sunshine, Pip gets pregnant again, and it takes time for her to accept it, the fear that comes with it and the guilt is difficult to read – but the ending is beautiful, showing that you can move on, and things can get better, day by day.

I would recommend this book to everyone, but I think that if like me your in the early stages of pregnancy, especially your first you need to be aware how it will affect your emotions and leave you thinking about the what ifs.

After the End is due for publication on June 25th 2019 – you can pre-order it here.

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