Enter to win a copy of the book below – open to US and Canada
Reviewed by Vera Pereskokova
Libby Miller was content – if not perfectly happy – with her life. She married Tom, the boy she fell in love with in grade school. Geographical separation aside, she adored her twin brother and his two children with his partner. And despite a miserable devil-wears-prada-like boss, Libby still felt like she had an upper hand because tolerating her boss also meant a hefty paycheck and an impressive, if not entirely real, resume.
When a mass removed from her stomach turns out to be a rare type of cancer, Libby expects to have Tom’s shoulder to cry on. Except, Tom has news of his own–he is gay. At a loss and unable to maintain her normally positive attitude, Libby throws out Tom, puts their apartment for sale and on a whim, flies to Vieques, Puerto Rico where her late mother once vacationed. She is not interested in treatment or even speaking with her doctor – she saw her mother suffer enough with cancer treatments – and figures she’ll enjoy a month on a beach before returning stateside and spending her remaining months with her family. But Vieques and a handsome pilot catch Libby by surprise and leave her questioning the life-and-death decisions she was so sure of just weeks before.
Life and Other Near-Death Experiences by Camille Pagan was well written and at times hilariously funny. That said, as a cancer patient myself, I felt it was too light and fluffy and the plot line too convenient given the subject matter. I could sort of understand Libby’s desire to escape and die on her own terms but at the same time found her attitude exasperating. She gave Tom zero chances to explain himself and although his revelation would be a shock to anyone, I thought she owed him more given their long history together. In similar fashion, she gave her doctor no opportunity to explain her diagnosis or treatment options. She simply jumped to conclusions and decided to jump off the deep end with no consideration for her family members who would want her around, sick or not. My biggest pet peeve, however, was Libby’s convenient romance with the pilot that flew her to Vieques. I saw it coming a mile away – well, I guess not really a mile since it happened so early on in the book – and almost hoped that Pagan would not take the story in such a predictable direction. The romantic angle did not feel authentic or realistic and only cemented my disenchantment with this book.
I have to admit, I did read Life and Other Near-Death Experiences with a jaded perspective given my own experiences with cancer. That said, others not as affected by cancer may find it an enjoyable and humorous read.
Review and giveaway copies were provided by Lake Union Publishing. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.