Keeping It Real

photo-3Right off the bat, I have a confession. Colleen’s book has been sitting on my desk, untouched, next to the keyboard wipes and my Shakespeare bobblehead since September.

I’ve been a little afraid of it for a several reasons. One, I lost a brother to cancer several years ago. He also had advanced AIDS but it was cancer that ended up killing him. It was a long, painful, hard death. I didn’t want to read about another one.

Two, I still consider myself a newly-wed. My husband and I had not quite been married a year when BEFORE I GO arrived in the mail. Though we’re not as young as Daisy and Jack, we’re still all gushy and lovey-dovey. Seriously, we’re kind of sickening. We’re the couple that, as single people, used to induce significant eye-rolling from both of us. So the thought of anything separating us was just too much for me. And I’d rather take a cross-country car trip with a televangelist than think about a follow-up wife for my husband.

Three, I am a marshmallow. I can’t make it through the news without tearing up either over something tragic or something heart-warming. I get choked up singing Christmas carols. Even voting gets to me. (Seriously! It’s important, people!) I don’t avoid them, but books that I know are going to get to me are hard for me to start.

So BEFORE I GO has been sitting on my desk for months. But it all turned out well in the end. I loved this book. I started reading it over the weekend, and I finished it in one day. It’s beautifully written. It’s respectful of what the characters are going through. It’s a gem.

So here I go. Five reasons why I loved BEFORE I GO.

1. I’m married to Jack. OK, not really, but my John is a lot like Daisy’s Jack. He’s an engineer who, in a nut shell, does applied physics for a living. He also leaves doors and cabinets open, never throws anything out of the refrigerator, forgets to eat, loses track of time, organizes things in piles that reach archaeological dig proportions. He’s also very tall and loving and sweet and crazy smart and generally a pretty amazing guy. So Jack and John have a lot in common. I think what gets me about the character of Jack is how perfect a husband he is for Daisy. It’s not really a matter of opposites attract. They love each other not in spite of their differences but almost because of them. They love each other in a way that makes sense and makes no sense at the same time. And that’s the best kind of love. But I love Jack most because he reminds me of my guy.

2. It’s not sad. Well, it is but it’s not. It’s a book about a sad topic that’s written with a lot of humor. It reminds me a lot of my friend Lolly Winston’s book GOOD GRIEF about a young widow. Both BEFORE YOU GO and GOOD GRIEF made me laugh out loud not because wackiness ensued, but because the narrators were truly honest about the crappy circumstances that they are in. They found the absurdity of their situations for us. I laughed more than I cried.

3. But I did cry. It’s OK though. I love books that make me cry. It was good crying. And I really loved Daisy and how much she loves those around her. I love that she wants to leave the world in a place where people can move on and be happy. And I love that she get pissed and frustrated, too. She’s got a huge heart but it doesn’t make her a saint. It makes her real.

4. Kayleigh. Kayleigh is the best friend I always wanted. And that’s all I have to say about that.

5. It’s a good story. The best story-telling gives us a way to explore pain without having to live it. And it’s in that exploration where we understand ourselves better and feel more connected to the people around us. We allow ourselves to stop and feel. It’s catharsis. And that’s what BEFORE I GO is for me. It was a release of emotion that scared me. And there was no better way to do that reading this book.

So there are my five reasons why I loved BEFORE YOU GO. I hope you read it because I know you’ll love it.

 

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Shelly is the author of THE MOMENT OF EVERYTHING, story of love and books in Silicon Valley. She lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains with her husband, two big dogs, and a disapproving cat.

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This article has 4 Comments

  1. I loved those things too! My husband has a lot of Jack in him, as well — and though we’re not exactly newlyweds (10 years next month!) I’m still as starry-eyed about him as I was the day I married him…maybe more 🙂

  2. Nailed it! It’s funny how so many of us were afraid to read this book, but loved it. I’m sure there’s a study in there somewhere.

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