I read: Before I Die

This book was an impulse purchase at the airport as the title of the book intrigued me. Never did I realize that I will be reading a heart-wrenching story of a sixteen-year-old cancer patient who has a bucket list for her remaining time on earth. Knowing that her life is short-lived, Tessa pushes herself to face facts: “I have two choices – stay wrapped in blankets and die or get the list back together and get on with living.”

Affirmations for life and the importance of family, the story is heart-breaking and despite the hoplessness of the situation, it will suck you in Tessa’s life, a teenager, who discovers that life is worth living the best you can. Making a decision to say “yes” to everything is hard work, and Tessa’s story will push you to take the first step. I felt her hunger for life as she licks an ice-cream stick until “the wood rasps my tongue” and grieved with her and discovered the little pieces of life that normally go slightly unnoticed.

Tessa’s relationships and their interactions thrum with tension and tenderness, that I ached with her at the thought of losing them. In her final moments, we know that her plan worked. Desperate to live what little life she has left, she checks her list of things from her list before she dies (Losing her virginity, doing drugs, experiencing things she’ll never get to experience). For every one item crossed off meant another day alive but also another day closer to her death. Tragic but with a touch of humor, the story is fairly predictable but it will truly make your heart ache. Its simplicity also makes it feels more genuine, as if it is actually written by Tessa. It makes you think about and appreciate your own friends, your family – your very life.

As I read the spareness of Tess’ life made so by her illness, who wants to squeeze in all of life’s moments, it allowed me to enrich my time with meaning and fulfillment. It made me reflect on what’s truly important in my own life. After the story ends, it makes you want to appreciate life and encourage you to start checking off things from Oh-this-I-will-do-later list and just do it. Downham has crafted such a realistic tone that it’s hard to believe Before I Die is a work of fiction.

A sad journey but now I pay attention to the goodbyes, warmth of the sun,  flavors of food that I eat, and wind blowing on my face. There really is beauty in the most simplest things in life but it took this book to open my depressed mind.
My Two Cents: Punched me in the gut with one thing which we take for granted – Life! The description on the back of the book explains it better than I could – “Uplifting, life-affirming, joyous – this extraordinary novel celebrates what it is like to be alive by confronting what it’s really like to die.” Embrace life and believe in magic in everyday life!
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Categories: Books | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “I read: Before I Die

  1. I haven’t read this book but I read the following “Eleven Hints for Life” somewhere:

    1. It hurts to love someone and not be loved in return.
    But what is more painful is to love someone and never
    find the courage to let that person know how you feel.

    2. A sad thing in life is when you meet someone who
    means a lot to you, only to find out in the end that it was
    never meant to be and you just have to let go.

    3. The best kind of friend is the kind you can sit on a
    porch swing with, never say a word, and then walk away
    feeling like it was the best conversation you’ve ever had.

    4. It’s true that we don’t know what we’ve got until we lose
    it, but it’s also true that we don’t know what we’ve been
    missing until it arrives.

    5. It takes only a minute to get a crush on someone, an
    hour to like someone, and a day to love someone-but it
    takes a lifetime to forget someone.

    6. Don’t go for looks, they can deceive. Don’t go for wealth,
    even that fades away. Go for someone who makes you
    smile because it takes only a smile to make a dark day
    seem bright.

    7. Dream what you want to dream, go where you want to go,
    be what you want to be. Because you have only one life and
    one chance to do all the things you want to do.

    8. Always put yourself in the other’s shoes. If you feel that it
    hurts you, it probably hurts the person too.

    9. A careless word may kindle strife. A cruel word may wreck
    a life. A timely word may level stress. But a loving word may
    heal and bless.

    10. The happiest of people don’t necessarily have the best
    of everything they just make the most of everything that comes
    along their way.

    11. Love begins with a smile, grows with a kiss, ends with
    a tear. When you were born, you were crying and everyone
    around you was smiling. Live your life so that when you die,
    you’re the one smiling and everyone around you is crying.

    I believe that if these hints are followed, one can lead a happy and successful life.

  2. Sounds like my kind of book. Thanks for the review.

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