At last week’s national book launch party for Colleen Oakley’s Before I Go, more than one person issued the warning that I should keep a box of tissues nearby when reading the book. You only have to read the dust jacket to understand that advice. Protagonist Daisy Richmond, a 27-year-old graduate student and wife to a veterinarian-in-training, finds out that she has terminal cancer. In the four months that doctors say she has left to live, Daisy determines to find a new wife for her soon-to-be-widowed husband Jack.
Still, Before I Go is not bleak because it’s as much about living as it is about dying. After Oakley’s launch party, I went home and quickly read the first third of the book. At its core, Before I Go is a love story told from the point of view of a young woman who should have her whole life ahead of her, but doesn’t. Even when dying, Daisy ignores her own feelings and plays caretaker and matchmaker when she should be making the most of the time she has left.
We all like to think that we’d quit our jobs, travel the world and perform amazing feats of daring-do if we received a death sentence like terminal cancer. Before I Go challenges that notion. For the past month, it feels like cancer and illness have overtaken my news streams. I’ve been following updates on Facebook from friends who are undergoing radiation or chemotherapy treatments. I’ve sent condolences to those who have lost loved ones to cancer. The disease devastates in so many ways.
I’m not a sports fan, but I recognized Stuart Scott as an ESPN anchor and hated to learn of his death on January 4th. Subsequently, I watched Scott’s acceptance speech at the 2014 ESPY awards. He had been fighting cancer for seven years at that point, and had this amazing advice to share: “When you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live. So live, live. Fight like hell. And when you get too tired to fight, then lay down and rest and let somebody else fight for you.”
I think Before I Go echoes that advice in a different way. I really enjoyed the book and meeting Colleen Oakley, who lives in Atlanta. She is on book tour right now, so visit the events page of her author website to find out when and where you can see her. I know it’s hard to tell from the photos here, but Colleen is pregnant with twins! Follow her @oakleycolleen on Twitter and congratulate her on all her 2015 debuts.