I am being a little flippant but it’s in keeping with the humour of The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin.
A few weeks ago I mentioned ‘cancer stories‘ as a genre. This is the ultimate cancer story – Mia ‘Rabbit’ Hayes is in palliative care, her body ravaged by cancer. As her family and friends wait by her bedside, Rabbit sleeps, dreaming of her past love, Johnny. Meanwhile, discussion is focused on who will take Rabbit’s 12-year-old daughter, Juliet.
The story is set in Ireland and is complete with the sprawling family, bossy but adored Irish mam, and lots of ribbing amongst family and friends. And it is the Irish setting that saves this book from being a sentimental, depressing cancer story. It’s funny and, in the right context, people can laugh about cancer and death (obviously you have to know your audience…).
“‘Don’t be making enemies of Rabbit’s nurses or I’ll murder you,’ Molly said. Rabbit laughed. ‘Yeah, there’ll be two of us in the hole.’ Everyone stopped… ‘Too much?’ she asked. ‘Too much,’ Grace replied.”
I appreciated McPartlin’s subtle treatment of Rabbit’s best friend, Marjorie. When someone is very ill or dying, sympathy and attention is often focused on immediate family. But friends can be closer than family and the grief is no less crushing – McPartlin gives Marjorie her rightful place ‘ringside’ (again, I’m keeping with the general tone of the book).
“And, oh, Marjorie, you made me promise to live for ever, or at the very least to go quietly in my eighties when you’re too old to give a fuck and a funeral is a lovely day out.”
There’s nothing groundbreaking about this book – it delivers exactly what it says in the title – but that’s not a criticism. It’s funny, it has some very sad and private moments, and it lightly touches on the different ways people handle grief. Not surprisingly, I bawled.
I received my copy of The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
It’s cafeteria chicken sandwiches for the Hayes family, made good with extra mayonnaise.