Another Way to Fall by Amanda Brooke
Paperback, 416 pages
Expected publication: 12th September 2013 by Harper
Shelves: adult-fiction, arc-or-review, books-i-own, chick-lit death, medical-conditions, mum-has, read-in-2013, realistic-fiction, read
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Description via Goodreads:
What would you do if you could write the story of your life?
After battling a brain tumour twenty-nine year old Emma thinks she is in the clear, but her world comes crashing down around her when she is told her fight was in vain, and there is nothing more the doctors can do.
Realising that she won’t now have time to achieve the things she dreamed of, Emma decides to write her perfect life in a story. She imagines all the things she would have done, the places she would have seen, the husband she would have shared her life with and the family they would have raised. And, mysteriously, as she writes her story, she starts to notice that some of her dreams seem to be coming true.
Now with a real love in her life, and her fading hope burning brighter, reality and fiction start to become blurred. As she writes their life-long love story Emma dares to believe that anything is possible, but can she really change her fate?
When I was asked to review Another Way to Fall, I was torn. I am known to like the slightly more depressing books that are on offer rather than the cheery chick-lit, but I wasn't sure if even I could handle this one as it was going to strike a somewhat personal chord. This is a book about a woman with a terminal brain tumour. Earlier this year, I was diagnosed with Pseudotumour Cerebri, a rare problem that is thankfully not life-threatening, but it means that I will live with the symptoms of a brain tumour for the rest of my life. As you'll be able to tell, my curiosity overpowered my slight wariness, and it didn't take me long to pick this book up and start reading.
We're introduced to Emma as she awaits to receive her results from the hospital, letting her know whether or not she is clear of cancer. Emma is hopeful that the news will be good and that she will be able to continue her life in a healthy, happy manner. Unfortunately, the results are far from positive and she is told that unfortunately nothing more can be done as her tumour is terminal. This book tells the story of Emma, her friends and her family coming to terms with her inevitable passing. Of course, this news is both devastating for Emma and the people around her.
One thing that struck me about this book was just how normal the characters were - they were very realistic and so it was so easy to imagine yourself in their position. Emma was an extremely strong character, but again, she was also very realistic and acted as I suspect a lot of people would in her situation. We get to learn a lot about all of the characters through the way that they react to bad news but it works really well - it gives us a true feeling of them as raw characters and what they're truly like. As well as meeting Emma, we meet several other characters, the most prominent ones being Ben, her romantic interest, her mother Meg and sister Louise. I also have to give a special mention to Iris and her friend, the two complaining old ladies who helped add a spark of humour to a dark time and really helped to liven the novel up a bit!
It was interesting to see how each character interacted with the other and in particular, I found the relationship between Emma and her mother, Meg, to be the most touching. I think that Meg was the character that I could connect to most - whether you are someone's daughter or someones mother, I'd imagine that knowing you're about to lose each other, for most people, is a very difficult one. I can't put really put the emotions into words, but Brooke has done a spectacular job of describing such a strong relationship. Undoubtedly, I found the saddest scenes to be those between Emma and Meg, both realising that they would be parting from each other. Whilst it felt different, I did really enjoy reading about Emma's relationship with Ben. It was quite obvious that they were going to end up together and I did find myself both rooting for them and feeling a little upset and knowing their time was limited.
As well as reading about Emma's real life, we get to read the book that she has planned to write before she dies - a story of hope, a story of Emma with an all-clear diagnosis who goes on and has the exact life she will miss. It was really interesting to see what Emma valued most and what she would have done had she gotten the all-clear. Though the book she is writing holds a somewhat fantasy world for her, with the help of Ben, she actually manages to achieve a lot of positive things and enjoyable experiences in her real life. Ben was truly the perfect man to Emma, not pushing her but encouraging her and surprising her, allowing her to do the things that she thought she couldn't do. It was difficult but understandable to see Emma push Ben away, but I am so glad that we got to read of their time together. It was lovely getting lost in their thoughts and adventures and for some moments forgetting the awful thing inside her head.
When you have a brain tumour, it's unfortunately very difficult to let go and forget about it for a while, but Brooke allowed Emma some freedom, whilst still managing to make sure we knew she was battling something that has no remorse. I thought that Brooke did a good job of describing the tumour that Emma had and portraying the symptoms without overcomplicating things. Personally, I found reading a lot of the symptoms or bad episodes that Emma had, quite difficult to read (due to having the same symptoms!) and so I read the book relatively slowly. The author clearly knows what she is talking about, what she is tackling and she handles it with just the right amount of both sincerity and delicacy.
Overall, this was a very well written book that I would recommend to any adult who thinks that they would 'enjoy' (probably not the most appropriate word) reading about the subject matter. Brooke hasn't just wrote about a brain tumour, but instead she has written about independence, hope and love. She has allowed us to really think of what we value, or what we dream to do. I really admire Brooke for writing this book, she has such a natural talent and sensitivity that shines through. I will certainly be looking forward to picking up more of her books in the future.