About the Book:
Mara Nichols is a successful lawyer, devoted wife, and adoptive mother who has received a life-shattering diagnosis. 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 and the power of relationships, and shows that sometimes loving someone means holding on, and sometimes it means letting go.
I just finished this book with tears rolling down my face. I truly enjoyed it and think it would make an awesome book club selection because of all the possible discussion topics.
Those who read this blog regularly know that I hold rather conservative traditional beliefs about about sex, sexuality and marriage. You also know that I regularly read and enjoy romance novels whose characters (characters I like, and cheer for) have very different beliefs, and act on them. As a Catholic I believe in the sanctity of human life from birth until natural death. Mara, as noted above, in an attorney, a wife and a mother. She suffers from Huntington's Disease, a progressive, genetic disease that results in the destruction of brain cells and the loss of control of the body. Mara has decided that she is not going to put herself or her family through the late stages of the disease; she is going to take her own life in five more days. Is she being heroic, or selfish? Is her choice going to deprive her family of the opportunity to love her and to be loved by her, or is it a way to give them freedom? Is this choice the free choice of a woman who has always been independent and goal oriented, or is it a symptom of a brain-damaging disease? These are the questions that ran through my mind as I read this book.
Mara's story contrasts with that of her online friend, Scott. Scott teaches and coaches at an inner city school in Detroit. While Mara is planning death, Scott is affirming life. While Mara seeks to eliminate pain through death, Scott opens himself to the pain that comes with loving a child he knows is his only for a short time. While Mara sees her death as a way to save her family from suffering she knows will come, Scott encourages (even guilts) his wife into embracing the challenge of raising a child whose mother is in prison and who has many of the problems one would expect in such a situation. If Scot has any flaw, it is that he is too perfect, or that he is too concerned with those outside his family, at the expense of his wife and marriage. I could see a book club discussing Scott's relationship with his wife and whether he should have asked some of the things of her that he did.
The thread that ties Mara and Scott together is that they both participate in an online forum for foster and adoptive parents (Mara adopted her daughter). Periodically we read their exchanges and both find strength in being able to say things to people they know, but don't, about how they are feeling. Have you ever participated long-term in an online forum, message board, facebook group etc.? There are some of you who read and comment here whose blogs I read and who I feel I know, at least in some ways, since we've been doing this for years. Are online relationships real, or do they keep people from engaging with those people who are a part of everyday life? Neither Mara nor Scott seem to be lacking in friends or the support of family, yet they both use screen names and stay up late to talk to strangers. What is it that draws people to online groups? Yes, book clubs could find a lot to talk about after reading Five Days Left.
Mara is specifically described as a woman without faith. Interestingly, she asks her friend to take her daughter to church at some point in the future. Scott's faith or lack thereof is not discussed though his actions speak of self-sacrificing love.
I learned about this book when Kathleen Basi invited me to the Women's Fiction Cafe, a facebook group, and I was lucky enough to find it in my local library. Grade: A.