Life and Other Happy Endings by Melanie Cantor – eARC Book Review

Author’s Note Regarding the Book Title

In light of the current global pandemic Melanie has recently decided to change the title of this book from ‘Death and Other Happy Endings’ to ‘Life and Other Happy Endings’.

The following is a note from Melanie further explaining why:

A few years ago, when I sat down to write the story of a young woman confronted by her own mortality, I could never have imagined that in 2020 we would all be facing the same.

Even when it was first published in June 2019, Death & Other Happy Endings was a brave title. But it perfectly summed up the paradox of the book and I felt proud to stand by it. Today however, with death and the possibility of death literally hanging in the air, the word no longer feels appropriate. And since the arc of the story is very much focused on life, we are changing the title to Life & Other Happy Endings, which, in a world where we all need hope, strikes a vital positive note.

And the book is positive. It shows that when faced with the worst, our values, the things we hold dear, crystallise, making us want to grab life with both hands. We see things in sharper focus from our friends and family to the world of nature that sits on our doorstep. Things we might previously have taken for granted. And yes, the novel does have a happy ending and in these scary times, we need to know that happy endings are possible and that life will always prevail.

Stay safe. Choose Life.

All very best wishes,

Melanie

Blurb from Goodreads

If your life was going to end tomorrow, what would you do today?

When she learns she has just three months to live Jennifer Cole decides to write 3 letters: one to her overbearing, selfish sister, another to her jelly-spined, cheating ex-husband, and the third to her charming, unreliable ex-boyfriend, each one saying everything she’s always wanted to say.

Fearing the worst, Jennifer finds this unburdening feels great.

But then as she’ll soon discover, the truth has a way of surprising you …

My Review

This book has a really interesting premise.

Jennifer.
Divorced.
Early 40s.
Gets told the news that no one wants to here. She’s dying from a rare blood disorder (so rare the book conveniently never mentions its name…)
Has about three months left to live.

So what does she do when she’s hit with this news?

Well she tries to keep her life the same. Keeps her job, doesn’t plan any bucket list extravaganza… (also doesn’t go for a second medical opinion *eye roll* but we’ll forgive that)

Except what she does do is write three letters.
Three salty, salty letters!

One goes to her older sister Isabelle with whom she has always had a strained and distant relationship. The letter tells Isabelle a few home truths about what a crappy sister she’s been and then drops the I’m dying bombshell. Honestly I love the savagery of just landing someone that has irked you all your life with a *you suck and now I’m dying so what are you gonna do about it* letter.

One goes to her ex husband Andy and his new wife Elizabeth. A man who cheated on her (with Elizabeth) while Jennifer was coming to terms with the third of her miscarriages… This letter is such a lol. Really hammers into Andy for being cold and distant and also shames Elizabeth for letting down the sisterhood.

And the last letter goes to ex lover Harry who always kept Jennifer at arm’s length but is someone that she’s still entirely in love with (even though besties Olivia and Anna Maria have tried to tell her that Harry was toxic and not good for her)

And the book follows the fallout from these three letters.

Overall this was a very easy read and I raced through it in two sittings. But some things didn’t sit quite right with me.

I really felt the inclusion of childhood friend Emily’s storyline was not handled as carefully as it should have been. Her mental illness struggles were used in too much of a teaching manner for my personal taste i.e. her character was purely defined by her illness and not given any other sort of detail; the character was simply included to inspire others to live their best lives. I truly feel that Emily’s character should either be erased completely from the novel (as she really didn’t add to the plot in any meaningful manner) or her storyline should have been properly expanded upon.

From the blurb of this novel I had expected something that would be darkly comic but ultimately this book turned into something much lighter with a lot more frivolity than I was expecting. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing as I did smile at those lighter moments and I liked the hopefulness of the ending but I did long for a little more edge to the storyline.

One of the better things about this book was the interesting dynamic between two sisters. I loved how the relationship between Jennifer and Isabelle evolved over the course of the novel and I was 100% invested in that aspect of the storyline.

Overall this was an entertaining read. The MC Jennifer went on an interesting journey of personal growth and self discovery which is always compelling to read about. And even though at times I wanted to slap her for being so dumb and not seeing what was glaringly obvious to everyone else I ultimately enjoyed the journey she took. She truly is an illustration of the foibles of being human and that always makes a character feel more authentic and like a true person.

A bit of a mixed bag but still an enjoyable read.

*I was invited to read an e-copy of this book by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

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7 thoughts on “Life and Other Happy Endings by Melanie Cantor – eARC Book Review

  1. Kinda funny, I was having a group chat with my besties yesterday and one of the things we talked about was what we’d do if we knew we were gonna die (yeah, not the chirpiest of convos but we were all over the show last night haha) but we ended up talking about reaching out to the people we’d regret not saying things to and I think I could totally see myself writing some salty letters 🤣 This sounds like an odd but entertaining read? I’ll keep it on my radar! Great review 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Odd but entertaining is a great way to describe it Dini. I really raced through it as quickly as possible to see how it would end so that’s always a good sign to be so keen :))) and in these weird times I don’t think your convo sounds unusual at all <333

      Like

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