So, there I was, on a chilly Winter morning, enjoying a decadent Sunday lie in and relishing the chance to finish my book, when the lovely man lying next to me turns to me and says “why on earth would you read a book that’s going to make you cry like that?” I looked at him, nose snotty and eyes blotchy and replied, “Because it makes me cry like this!”
Never Say Goodbye, by Sunday Times bestselling author Susan Lewis, is a tear jerker, but for all the right reasons. Think Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper and you’ll know what I’m talking about. What these books have in common is that they both tackle a difficult and emotional issue: cancer. What they also have in common is their portrayal of the emotions that this disease arouses in both those with it, and those around them.
Josie Clark is a salt-of-the-earth type of woman: hard working, warm, funny, and devoted to her family. She and her husband are barely making ends meet, and their son is in prison for a crime he was only partly involved in. Then she discovers she has breast cancer. Bel Monkton lives in a completely different world, and seems to have everything, but she has recently lost someone to cancer and is struggling to move on with her life in the wake of her devastation. When these two incredibly different women meet, they find in each other the very thing they’re both desperately in need of: friendship. It is through this bond that they find the courage to move through their grief, and the support they need to do what’s necessary.
Never Say Goodbye was wonderfully unexpected. I knew nothing of the author, I knew little of her writing, and, given the topic, I treaded carefully to begin. But, it didn’t take long for me to be spellbound and compelled to keep turning the pages. The story is simple, that of two people who wouldn’t normally find each other, but the overwhelming turning points in their lives meant that their connection happened – away from social class or education and instead based on very raw, very real human experience. Stories like this, stories of friendship, always inspire in me hope, and remind me that, really, we are all the same with the same vulnerabilities at our core.
Lewis’ pace was perfect, her slow, gentle interweaving of Josie and Bel’s stories was just right, and her characters had depth and authenticity. However, it is her flawless ability to connect with you, the reader’s humanity, to connect with your heart-felt emotions, that makes this novel such a good read. As Josie discovers that she has breast cancer and has to undergo chemotherapy and her reactions to this, one cannot help but have empathy for her, and understand the decisions she makes along the way. Her interaction with the people in her life, their reactions, and the whole awful process that they are living through feels so raw, so real, that there are moments that you just cannot help but surrender to the emotion rising in your throat.
Without a doubt, Lewis’ book about friendship, love, family and courage is a fine example of Women’s Contemporary Fiction. Never Say Goodbye gets to the heart of some important issues that, not only will move you, but will remind you what really matters. Do make sure you have the tissues handy though!