Green’s latest summer novel is an uneasy mix of girly romance and cancer.
Once upon a time there were two sisters: Callie has a house in the country, two kids, a dreamy husband and a growing career as a photographer. Steffi is an up-and-coming vegan chef in New York, has a rock-star boyfriend and a charmingly irresponsible life. But because she’s deadly bored with the city (and her boyfriend and her job), Steffi decides to accept the generous offer of acquaintance Mason Gregory. While he and his filthy rich wife Olivia are in London for a year, Steffi will dog sit Fingal at their country house, which happens to be close to Callie’s place. Steffi loves the country, loves feeding the chickens and the goats, loves the quiet of the beautiful house and the little business she’s beginning, supplying healthy food to the town. But most importantly, she’s there for Callie, whose splitting headache has developed into a hospital stay, which leads to the diagnosis of terminal cancer. Their parents (who have been divorced for 30 years and never speak) come down from Maine; Callie’s driven husband Reece does the unthinkable—stops working to look after the children he barely knows; and best friend Lila becomes an advocate for Callie, navigating the family through the nightmare of her illness. An effervescent soul, Callie wants to live through her loved ones, and soon the fractured lives of those she cares about begin to come together, just as Callie lies dying. Green’s sad story (the novel is inspired by a close friend who died) seems more of a catalyst for romance and positive life change rather than a drama, resulting in an emotionally disjointed read.
Green’s 12th novel (Dune Road, 2009, etc.), so intent on a sort-of-happy ending, misses the mark.