Book Review: Before I Go by Colleen Oakley

Book Review: Before I Go by Colleen OakleyBefore I Go by Colleen Oakley
on 1st February 2015
Pages: 320
Daisy never asks you to feel sorry for her.

Daisy is 27-years-old and has only months to live. And, each day, she's finding her way through what needs to be done.

Her major worry is what her wonderful, charming husband, Jack, will do without her. She knows that he won't take care of himself so Daisy has to do it for him. As she searches for Jack's next wife, she begins to realise that her plan to ensure Jack's happiness is much more complicated than she expected.

Life-affirming, authentic, funny and heartbreakingly beautiful, Before I Go is all about love

Four years ago Daisy fought cancer and she won. Now 27 years old, Daisy should have her whole life to look forward to. She has a loving husband, a best friend who has always been there for her and a master’s degree in psychology all but completed. But the cancer is back and this time Daisy’s prognosis is not good. “Lots of cancer” has infected her body and now Daisy only has a few months left. With her expiration date approaching, Daisy knows her time is running out. But before she goes she wants to make sure her husband is taken care of – and that means finding him a new wife.

Before I Go is heartbreaking and lovely with a thoughtful take on mortality. Daisy is a fantastic character to follow as she starts the last chapter of her life. Her approach to life is believable – from her obsession with organic food to her love for her husband. Daisy’s physical decline was written perfectly. Her confusion, anger and sense of loss at her future being taken away from her felt real. Daisy’s desire to continue to live without people treating her different because of the “lots of cancer”, her friends and family reaction to her diagnosis resonated with me.

I loved Before I Go although I do regret bringing it with me on my commute to work. Bursting into tears on public transport because of just how much Daisy made me feel – not my finest moment. I had reservations before I started reading – a book about a woman’s last few months? There is so much potential to be depressing and whiney. But Colleen Oakley handled Daisy’s story in such a smart and well-considered way with the right balance of bittersweet and humour.

Daisy’s relationship with her husband Jack was a highlight of this novel. She wants him to be happy and looked after when she’s not around to pick up after him. But she finds it harder than she expected to prepare for a life after she’s gone. The problems they faced felt authentic – both prepping for after but also the way they communicated and interacted during the present. The friendship between Daisy and Kayleigh was another brilliant addition to the story. Jack and Kayleigh contrasted nicely and despite their differences, they both added to the beautiful tragedy of Daisy’s diagnosis.

What I liked most about this book was how it wasn’t all about the cancer nor about death despite Daisy’s cancer being terminal. There is a strong message of love and living whilst you are alive. There are many heartfelt moments and a sense of hope despite it all.

Before I Go is an emotional journey dealing with death, life and love. Filled with beautiful moments and fantastic relationships, this book has been one of my favourite cancer related stories I’ve read and I can’t wait to check out more by Colleen Oakley in the future.

Thanks to Allen and Unwin for the review copy

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