- Life and Death by Laurencia Hoffman
Life and Death by Laurencia HoffmanHot
** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK FOR MY READING PLEASURE **
The other thing that makes them special – and is so important to me – is that they don't guarantee anything. So if you pick up this book expecting an HEA, you'll get it. But it won't be in the way you think. And you'll shed some tears – or demolish a box of tissues or two! – in the process.
But, before I get into the nitty gritty, I'll explain why this is only 4 stars. There are some issues and that's normal with any book. I'm a nit-picky person, so yes I noticed a few typos (missing quotation marks, lesson 6 being called lesson 5 – small stuff). And, yes, I'm a chapter-freak. I hate when there are no chapters, because I have nerve pain in my hands, so reading off a tablet can get painful. I like to put it down for just a minute, at the end of a chapter or two, go get a drink or lunch or whatever and take a break. There was no opportunity to do that with this book, since there were no chapters, just “parts”. And without chapter indications, I couldn't tell when the end of a part was nearing. Each “part” was approximately 20% of the story, as far as I can tell.
The one thing I wasn't prepared for when I picked this up was the biographical nature. The blur made it sound like Jack found out about his brain tumour at the beginning and was already in an established relationship that he had to navigate while keeping his condition a secret. However, the truth is that we see Jack from the age of 11, then as he grows to be a man in his early twenties. This threw me a little, at first, because I was expecting a purely contemporary novel about a twenty/thirty year old man in a relationship.
There is a lack of transition and flow between parts, with no sense of timeline until well into a few pages. For example, in part 1 we went from Jack not even dating a girl to having broken up with her and having a daughter with her at the start of part 2. That really confused me, because Jack woke up with a man in Part 2, in the first line, and I just assumed it was part of the escort thing until later in the scene when I found out otherwise. It slipped me out of the story to encounter those sudden transitions.
What I loved? Oh, let me count the ways.
First off, I loved Jack as a MC. He was a proudly bisexual young man, strong and sure of himself even when he was a boy. Homeless at 11 years old, because he'd helped people and his parents were complete idiots, he somehow managed to stay strong enough to survive the streets and retain his sense of selflessness. There are a few MF moments, since he and his love interest later in the book are both bisexual. This is great, because often bisexual characters in LGBT books are never shown with a female or with an attraction to a woman, so it was great to see that.
I liked the biographical way the story was told. Starting with Jack being young, being made homeless and why, then drifting into his first meeting with Fred and then the consequences of that. No scene or event was worthless or unimportant to the story.
I liked the range of characters that Jack encountered throughout his life – Ryder, Fred, Jim, Chris, Miranda, Beth, Mark, Ryan, Lila, Tiffany, Emily, Amy, Greyson. All of them made a difference and Jack himself had an impact on each and every one of them. Some were good people, some were truly evil, though Jack never did anything to hurt them or wish them ill.
For me, this book dredged up a lot of nasty emotions. See, I've had cancer and I've done the chemo thing. Though I really didn't like the way chemotherapy was treated as an evil option and something that would end a life in the story, I understand that it's a common misconception. Chemo saved my life, so I can't hate it, but I know that a lot of people do, because they watch someone riddled with cancer wilting away before their eyes. The thing is...it's not the chemo. Sure, it's really brutal. I had some really strong, intense stuff, but it didn't make me any sicker than I already was. People mistake the sickness of a person as the chemos fault, when it's really just the cancer fighting back.
However, as I said, I understand that viewpoint and for Jack, who lived on the streets and had no medical insurance for most of his life, I could understand the financial as well as emotion burden that treatment would bring upon him. Making himself sicker – even if it promised an eventual cure – wasn't in the cards for him, as a single parent. And I respected him (and the author) for acknowledging that. It's a hard decision but one that was right for him.
But, I spent an entire day – from 11am to 3pm to be exact – crying constantly because of this book. Part of it was how well it was written and the fact that I could connect so easily to Jack, as a main character, and the situation he found himself in. The other part was that it was very reflective, for me personally. It was hard to read, but it was kind of like seeing the alternative to my situation and knowing how lucky I was to still be here, thirteen years later. Even now, an hour after finishing the book, I'm crying because it just hit that close to home.
Jack was, in my opinion, not only a saint and an angel, he was brave and strong in a way that I envy. He took this burden of what was happening to him and he lived every second the way he chose. He loved, he lived, he fought and he helped people along the way. His only mission in life, even from the early age of 11 was to help people and he did that.
The ending ruined me. The Epilogue helped clean up a little of the mess. But I think this one will leave its mark for a long time coming.
Overall, I can't recommend it enough. Sure, I found a few flaws, but there's nothing in this world worth anything that's perfect.
Read it. You won't be sorry.
“He would do things like this for the rest of his life if he could. He liked helping people, even if it meant leading them back to where they belonged and having to walking away from them.” (sic)
“Being silent was just another way for him to become invisible.”
“Though it pains me that someday I'll have to leave