A woman with terminal cancer chooses to live the end of her life to the fullest on an around-the-world cruise.
Jones (Letters from the Skeleton Coast, 2017) recalls events beginning in 2007 with his wife Joanne’s diagnosis of terminal cancer. Breast cancer, which she had battled for years previously, had metastasized throughout her body, giving her only a couple of years to live. After participating in an intensive drug trial that failed to produce results, she continued with traditional chemotherapy but to no avail. In late 2008, they made the difficult decision to discontinue treatment. He writes of Joanne: “The thought of spending her final days in a hospital bed was not an attractive option for her. With the countdown at about three months, she decided on her third wish—the final cruise.” At this point, the story turns its voice over to Joanne through a long series of emails, “unchanged and unedited,” which she wrote to family and friends while aboard the South Pacific cruise. These messages reveal her courageous and optimistic personality, ending with the words “There is a song with lyrics that is my mantra: ‘If you have the chance to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.’ My dear friends—we have DANCED!!” This book first intrigues readers with its title, and then the prologue builds up expectations even more with the line “Well, let me tell you the amazing story of the black pearl necklace.” The tale quickly loses its momentum, however, especially since the drama of the necklace constitutes a very small percentage of the work, and the conflict and resolution behind it are rather anticlimactic. But the author excels at painting a splendid picture of Joanne and her selfless, upbeat character, something that will be particularly inspiring to those fighting cancer. Unfortunately, most of the text recounts simple reminiscences instead of employing salient details to purposefully contribute to plot and character development, elements that are vital in creating a riveting account. While close friends and family should adore this book, it will likely fail to engage a broader audience.
A fine snapshot of a stalwart individual.