McLaughlin invites readers on a journey of the heart in this celebration of life, death and what it means to be human.
After fighting cancer for a year, teenage Amy finally starts to feel better. Then she dies in a tragic accident. Her mother Jane feels so much guilt that she lets her daughter’s death tear her life apart. One year after Amy’s death, Jane’s husband has left her and her son spends a lot of time with his dad, leaving Jane alone for days at a time. She passes these days with human-rights photographer Riva Hakim, whom is dying. Riva is also the wife of the late professor who was Amy’s biological father. While Jane has begun to deal with the guilt she feels over Amy’s death, she still has a long way to go when we first meet her. Riva, for her part, is trying to die well, and that includes forgiving the man who cheated on her as a course of habit, and opening up to a friendship with Jane as well as putting down her camera to write her memoirs. As she writes, Riva remembers the places she’s seen in the world—the trauma, tragedy and joy—and fights to see how these things have changed her. Her faith in God brings her peace during this difficult time, and she tries to lead Jane to that peace as well. As the two women journey, together and separate, they learn how to make peace with their pasts and how to go on into the future, whatever it asks of them. They learn that a dream can be a downfall, that endings are also beginnings and that what God has in store for a life may not be what the liver of that life always thought they wanted. McLaughlin’s storytelling is superb, deftly handling both women’s stories and the transitions between them, allowing readers to easily follow along. She also expertly handles emotions, making Jane and Riva’s grief, loss, anger and joy palpable.
A tour de force that makes readers face hard truths about the effect a person’s choices can have on her soul.