Title: After The End
Author: Clare Mackintosh
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group UK
Max and Pip are the strongest couple you know. They’re best friends, lovers—unshakable. But then their son gets sick and the doctors put the question of his survival into their hands. For the first time, Max and Pip can’t agree. They each want a different future for their son.
What if they could have both?
A gripping and propulsive exploration of love, marriage, parenthood, and the road not taken, After the End brings one unforgettable family from unimaginable loss to a surprising, satisfying, and redemptive ending and the life they are fated to find. With the emotional power of Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper, Mackintosh helps us to see that sometimes the end is just another beginning.
Having read some of Clare’s previous novels, I was expecting another pyschological thriller, but After The End reads very differently. It’s much more of a character-driven, ‘what would I do?’ type of novel which reminded me of some of Jodi Picoult’s releases. Apparently it’s based on the author’s own experiences and this grief and devastation comes right through the pages; I can’t even imagine how it must have felt to write all this down – I suppose that’s why it took her so many years to start it, understandably. It’s very raw and emotional to read, but also completely gripping. I couldn’t put it down…
The story is so very sad, not just for young Dylan’s awful situation and the absolute unjustness of someone so young being so ill, but also for the heartbreak of Pip and Max as their marriage struggles. As the book says, there’s so much at stake here.
I don’t want to give much away, so I won’t mention lots of specifics in the story and it’s structure (as there were parts that completely surprised me and really adds to the story), but the fact that it explores ‘what ifs’ so beautifully and heart-wrenchingly. This had me completely absorbed in the story. We hear from both Pip and Max and also, at times, from Dylan’s doctor, Leila. The fact that Dr Leila is Iranian (as am I – well, half Iranian anyway) struck an extra chord with me as I enjoyed reading about her Iranian mother and their relationship and life, something I don’t often see.
I can’t put into words how emotional this story made me. I was in floods of tears for a good third of it, but it never felt like the writing was trying to force the reader to feel one way of the other. What it was so incredibly powerful at doing was making the reader think ‘what if – ‘what if that happened to me; what would I do’, what if Things had worked out one way or the other or what if that had happened to another family. I can only imagine the anguish and utter devastation if that was happening to your child and you were forced to choose. Very thought provoking and very emotional, After The End is beautifully written and incredibly powerful.
Many thanks to Little, Brown Book Group UK for providing a copy of this book on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.