Want to have a good cry? Like a refreshingly liberating one? A big, messy, kleenex grabbing, smiley, sad, devastating and satisfying one? Then you need to pick up Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer. This debut novel is a stunning and deeply emotional story of love, loss, and everything that comes in between.
I’ll be truthful. I asked to review this book because one of the main character’s names is Mara. Having an unusual name is a strange thing. You become inordinately attracted to anything or anyone that also bears your handle. Hence, as a child, my favourite thing to do was drive by Mara Township on the way to the cottage, my top wine choice is called Mara, and I’m drawn (or rather fascinated by) other women called Mara. Good reason to choose a book? That depends. This time it definitely was.
What would you sacrifice for love?
Imagine you’ve got just 5 days left with the people you love. Five days to kiss them, hold them, read to them. Five days to say goodbye, have every experience one last time, to just be. This is what this talented writer asks us to ponder: how we would spend our final days with those that we care about? Could we do it? How would we find the strength?
The book follows two parallel (but never meeting) storylines of a woman (the eponymous Mara) who has a terminal illness and has set the date of her own death and Scott, and ordinary guy who has just five days left with the boy he has fostered for a year.
Mara, a successful lawyer, a devoted wife, and adoptive mother, wants to spare her family the horrifying effets of her fatal disease. Scott-a middle school teacher who has been fostering an eight-year-old boy while the boy’s mother serves a jail sentence – has five days before the boy will return to his mother, walking out of Scott’s house forever. Through their stories, Julie Lawson Timmer explores the individual limits of human endurance and the power of relationships.
This novel is touching, emotional, and for want of a better word, effective. Julie Lawson Timmer is a clean and concise author who seems to have the ability to put us right into the moment. There are passages that are just so brutally honest that you become a part of them. The characters and their emotion literally oozes off the pages. And then, the inevitable happens and you can’t hold back your tears.
Here’s a secret: I was reading 5 Days on an airplane and I had to shut the whole thing down and grab a dirty book on my e-reader (I keep those on there just for emergencies…) because I was near to losing my composure completely. But then, you know what? Somehow, I opened the book up to the next page (when I was alone) and started reading again and amongst the sadness, I felt optimistic. Because of the great love. And sacrifice. And joy. And the life that we have to life. And you know, all the feelings.
I mean, how often does that sequence of emotions happen? Maybe when you’re reading Love Story or watching A Walk to Remember… or 5 Days Left.
You should read it. Do you think you will?