If you read one book this year, make it the witty, heart wrenching and yet life affirming 'Late Fragments: Everything I Want To Tell You (About This Magnificent Life)' by Kate Gross.
This wonderful book is a raw, honest and untraditional memoir. Kate was diagnosed with colon cancer at just 34 years old. This book is written for her 5-year-old twin boys, Oscar and Isaac, as a record of herself and as a lasting piece of herself. She writes: 'There are two copies of this book that matter. There are two pairs of eyes I imagine reading every word.'
A high flyer, Kate led an impressive life. She had worked at 10 Downing Street for Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. She set up an African charity. She was awarded an OBE. She also received the news that we all dread: she had cancer. But Kate doesn't dwell on the misery of living with a terminal illness, or on the endless treatments and therapies that go with it.
Written between her diagnosis and her death, this is Kate's way of making sense of her illness, making sense of her shortened life, and coming to terms with leaving behind those she loves. Of her husband, the love of her life, she writes: '...I cry most when I think of Billy when he is sixty-five. He will still be handsome... For some reason I imagine him in an open top sports car... But I'm not in the passenger seat. Someone else is. I am grieving for a future we won't have together. Nonetheless I am the lucky one, because I never have to lose him.' This is the story of a tragedy, but it is filled with humour and hope.
Kate died on Christmas morning, 2014, aged 36 years old. She was, as she knew she would be, denied the chance to know what the future would have held. Of her boys, she could only wonder what lies ahead. 'Who knows whether the little people they are at five will reflect the big people they are at twenty-five, forty-five, sixty-five.'
This book is not always an easy read, but it is worth it. So please, do read this.