Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer is a story that is beautiful, tragic, and hopeful. I hardly know how to put into words the effect that this book had on me but I know that it will linger in my memory for years to come. It is one of those books that makes you reflect on your own life; on how you live and on who and what is most important to you. I listened to the audiobook which is narrated by Rebecca Lowman and Kirby Heyborne, both of who I’ve listened to before. They are both incredible narrators and they portrayed the emotional complexity of this novel perfectly. I can’t remember the last time I felt this strongly about a book and I’ll be honest with you – parts of it are really heart wrenching but there is also such a strong thread of new beginnings, love, and family. This book tops my list of favorites for this year and truthfully I don’t see any others surpassing it for me.
Five Days Left chronicles the lives of two families and the events that shape only five days. Both are battling circumstances beyond their control and the only link between the two is an online support forum that two of them participate in and have become friendly because of. This may seem disjointed but it isn’t. The author weaves these two story lines together seamlessly and they very much compliment each other. On one hand we have Mara Nichols who is in her early forties with a very successful career as a lawyer … until the day she receives the most devastating news of her life. She has been diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease and she knows that her life as a wife, mother, and career woman will eventually come to a grinding halt. On the other hand we have Scott Coffman, a teacher, who along with his wife have been fostering eight year old Curtis as his mother is in jail. Scott and his wife are expecting their own child soon but still Scott struggles with the knowledge that one day when the boy’s mother gets out of jail he will be forced to give up this boy he loves so much.
The characters inhabiting this novel are some of the most memorable I’ve met in a book. Mara is understandably angry. Her plan for her life is gone. There is no cure for Huntington’s Disease and she will only get worse. She begins to exhibit symptoms that humiliate her and her young daughter making things even more difficult for her. My heart hurt for this woman and I could literally feel her anger and pain at the hopelessness of her situation. Scott is a wonderful character. He is a kind, caring man always looking to help young people where he can and he’s fallen hard for Curtis. He loves being a dad to this little boy and it shines through in every page. I’m not going to spoil this book for anyone who might read or listen to it so I’m not going to say where the five days left scenario fits in but it does for both families. I think this is one of those books that would make a perfect pick for a book club. I would have loved to have someone to discuss it with as I was reading. I’m sure there would be no shortage of discussion topics with one of the most important being what would you do with your life if diagnosed with a terminal illness. It certainly made me think.
Heart breaking, hopeful, and beautifully written, Five Days Left is a novel that will stay with you long after you turn the last page. Highly, highly recommended!