Title: After the End
Author: Clare Mackintosh
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publication date: 25th June 2019
My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
“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. “
I could tell from the blurb that reading After the End would be difficult but nothing could have prepared me for the myriad of emotions I felt while turning the pages. It tells the painful and frightening story of Max and Pip, parents who are forced to make a decision no parent should ever have to make when their son Dylan falls ill. Presented with the opportunity to continue Dylan’s treatment but with no certainty of success, they weigh up the options and disagree on the best care for their terminally ill son. Are they ready to put him through months hospital visits and medical care in the hope that it is successful and he gets better even though doctors don’t believe it will? Or is the most humane option to listen to the doctor’s advice even though it is not something they ever want to hear? The struggles these characters faced were told through their eyes with a beautiful mixture of anguish, longing and tenderness. I was blown away by how well the author produced these emotions and the sensitivity with which she presented both sides of the argument.
As the story line moves from hospital to courtroom and a difficult decision is made, the author explores a what-if scenario with a great effort to analyse both sides with compassion and fairness. I appreciate what she created through the use of the split timelines and was surprised and rattled at some of the consequences. Despite the outcome of the courtroom battle, ultimately both decisions have a set of consequences which both characters struggle with years to come.
This book explores the grey areas in life with a conscientious effort to honour both characters and their choices. Max and Pip both love their son and want the best for him but cannot agree on what the best course of action entails. I empathised and connected with both characters and was torn when it came to difficult decision they had to make. I had to put this book down several times and wonder what I would do in such a situation but the enormity of it was too much to handle.
A tough subject matter presented with understanding and compassion as well as a set of real characters made this book a gem that I cherished from beginning to end. I would recommend it to anyone willing to explore the meaning of life told from a young family’s perspective although I would encourage any readers to have tissues ready for the emotions they will most likely experience.