Review: Life and Other Near-death Experiences by Camille Pagan

Libby Miller has always been an unwavering optimist—but when her husband drops a bomb on their marriage the same day a doctor delivers devastating news, she realizes her rose-colored glasses have actually been blinding her. With nothing left to lose, she abandons her life in Chicago for the clear waters and bright beaches of the Caribbean for what might be her last hurrah.

I found Libby funny, brave and, at times, absolutely exasperating – maybe these are the reasons why I liked Life and Other Near-death Experiences so much. Camille Pagan made me feel for Libby, get angry with her and for her stubborn insistence that cancer diagnosis is a certain death-sentence.

Libby Miller has 6 months to live, but as it turns out the doctor’s devastating blow is the impulse for her to start living her life fully. She throws out her husband, with whom she’s been together for 18 years and who happens to be gay, quits a job, sells the apartment and flies off to Puerto Rico to see the island where her parents went on their honeymoon. In Puerto Rico she realizes that instead of accepting inevitable death, she could choose to fight.

Libby is afraid, of course, anyone would be… Her mum died of cancer and one of the reasons she stubbornly refuses to get treatment is that she does not want to start a fight she fears she will loose. She goes to Puerto Rico to disconnect from everything and enjoy her life for a month, on her way she meets a pilot that nearly kills her (or saves her, depends how you put it) and helps her see that the way forward is to keep fighting. It takes true bravery to accept your fate, it takes even more bravery to try and change it.

Life and Other Near-death Experiences is funny, beautifully-written and realistic, one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read this year.

Overall: 4*

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