Review: Five Days Left

September 9, 2014 Amy Einhorn Books, book review, debut novel, Julie Lawson Timmer, putnam books 9

Five Days Left

  • Written By:  Julie Lawson Timmer
  • Published By:  Amy Einhorn Books, an imprint of Putnam Books, September 9, 2014
  • Length:  352 pages
  • Source:  Publisher

Summary:  Destined to be a book club favorite, a heart-wrenching debut about two people who must decide how much they’re willing to sacrifice for love.
Mara Nichols, a successful lawyer, and devoted wife and adoptive mother, has recently been diagnosed with a terminal disease. Scott Coffman, a middle school teacher, has been fostering an eight-year-old boy while the boy’s mother serves a jail sentence. Scott and Mara both have five days left until they must say good-bye to the ones they love the most. Through their stories, Julie Lawson Timmer explores the individual limits of human endurance, the power of relationships, and that sometimes loving someone means holding on, and sometimes it means letting go.  

My Thoughts:  Five Days Left tells the story of two people.  Mara Nichols and Scott Coffman are “friends” via an online group message board for parents of different kinds of families, like adoption, foster parenting etc.  They are anonymous in that no one uses their real name, just a screen name.  Deep relationships are built within the group, private messaging helps both Mara and Scott share more intimate details of their lives.

What Mara isn’t sharing is that she was diagnosed several years ago with Huntington’s Disease, a debilitating, hereditary, and fatal brain disorder.  There is no cure.

On the other hand Scott has been very vocal about he and his wife’s role as temporary guardian of a young boy.  Their year is coming to an end.  He should be happy, the boy will be returning to his mother, and he and his wife are expecting their first child.  Scott is filled with sadness at losing Little Man, as he refers to the boy.  The book is told in the five days he has left with the boy.

The five days are also the days that Mara is contemplating leaving her family.  As her disease progresses she has less and less control over her body. She is filled with dread, not wanting to burden her loved ones with caring for her.  She’s already left her demanding legal career, no longer able to keep track of the details of cases and meetings.  She has the love and support of her husband and parents who live close by in a suburb of Dallas.  Her five year old daughter is who she most wants to protect.

In the alternating voices of Mara and Scott the reader is shown two unique families and individuals struggling with letting go while loving their children and others so very much.  Julie Lawson Timmer has given us a novel so gut wrenching and full of questions none of us would want to be faced with, it’s page turning, pulling at your heart.

There are details so uniquely chosen for this book, and they seem to add layers and dimensions to the characters.  Mara is the only adopted child of Indian decent parents.  Adopted from a home in India where she returned to adopt her own daughter.  Scott’s guardianship is to a young boy, brother of a former student and basketball player he taught and coached.  The older brother has risen above his public housing upbringing to attend University of Michigan and play basketball.

To say I loved Five Days Left is an understatement.  The emotions and confessions of both Mara and Scott tore my emotions apart.  I think I wanted to save them both in some way, save them from their pain, impending separation or anything.  Please buy, borrow or snag this book from a friend…but I urge you to read it.

Come by later this week as I share my interview with the author Julie.  Please visit her website or connect with her on twitter.  Trust me, you’re going to be hearing her name a lot!!

9 Responses to “Review: Five Days Left”

  1. Sarah's Book Shelves

    I’ve heard so many fantastic things about this book…but I’m not sure if I’m ready for it. I’m still recovering from the heart-wrenching We Are Not Ourselves and need a bit of a break before I tackle another emotionally draining book. But, I think I will read this one at some point!

    • Anita

      I have a copy of We Are Not Ourselves, I’ll wait a bit, but clearly I need to read it. Thanks 🙂

  2. DoingDewey

    The details of the characters in this book really were fantastic. I loved that the characters were so different from me and yet the author made me empathize with them so deeply. A really lovely book.

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