Sunday, January 31, 2016

Life and Other Near-Death Experiences by Camille Pagan

It's a New Year and for me that means my doctor visits begin again.  We all take them and people say better safe than sorry but I always see any doctor visit no matter how routine as a cause for alarm. Hypochondriac that I am it might seem strange therefore that I would decide to read Life and Other Near-Death Experiences by Camille Pagan.

It's a contemporary novel in which the heroine Libby Miller is in her 30's and finds out she has a rare and deadly form of cancer.  Her first thought is to go home and talk to her husband Tom who she has always relied on for support. He will know what to do.  But before Libby can reveal her news, Tom has some suprising news of his own. Libby ends the marriage and decides not to tell Tom or anyone about her cancer diagnosis.

Libby also decides why bother with treatment when the odds don't look good? She watched her mother die from cancer when she was young.  Why inflict that again on her brother and father? Why tell anyone?  And so Libby sells her apartment, quits her job, withdraws her savings and moves to Vieques, a small island near Puerto Rico which her mother loved.  As Libby says "It was all going to be very Eat Pray Die".  The plan is to spend her remaining year walking on the beach, sipping Pina Coladas and visiting the places that meant so much to her mother whose memory permeates this book.  Of course things don't work out the way Libby planned, the small plane she takes to Vieques for example is flown by a handsome Puerto Rican pilot who has been through health issues himself and for me meeting him was one of the joys of this novel.

Life And Other Near-Death Experiences is not a depressing read despite the subject matter and some will say that's the problem.  Libby narrates the novel in a funny tinged with sarcastic "and then this happened" way but as the novel progresses the author Camille Pagan  is able to convey some important lessons about not going it alone. People want to help.  The ending though is too polyanna and I wondered what people faced with serious illness might think of Libby's journey.   The takeaway might be that it's important to go for doctor visits and treatment regardless of the fear you may have.  You owe it to yourself to fight.

Finally Libby who begins the book angry and panicked gradually evens out and becomes more reflective and though her mother is no longer alive you sense that she is still with Libby in spirit.  I found Libby a likeable funny and strong character who you will want to root for. Over two thousand people have reviewed Life and Other Near-Death Experiences on Amazon.com and it is a book I recommend checking out.

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