Beginning in Cape Cod, 1988, Megan and Holly are teenagers and best friends enjoying the lights and laughter of a carnival. Acting on impulse, they find themselves inside the tent of an old psychic woman who delivers them a cryptic and chilling premonition. Spooked by what they hear, the two girls flee from the carnival.
Time then skips forward to 2009. Megan is now 38-years-old and a single mother earning a living as a freelance artist, as she raises her 14-year-old daughter, Olivia. Megan is gravely ill. The cancer she had once beaten has returned with a vengeance and she knows instinctively that her time is short. Faced with her own imminent mortality, and the prospect of the end coming sooner than she wanted, she must deal with the problem of who is to be Olivia’s guardian after her death.
Author Melissa Foster is a fearless writer who has produced a highly-charged emotional roller-coaster that will break readers’ hearts, as they progress through the story, and are made aware of the best and worst of human emotions and behavior. The author tackles controversial and sadly only too real issues, particularly in the part when Megan has to rescue Olivia from the clutches of a predatory rapist who has stalked her via an internet chat-room. This is an important issue: to raise parents’ awareness of the potential dangers of children being allowed to surf the internet, and the need to protect them from deviants who prowl cyberspace and hide behind avatars and aliases.
This is also a story of pain on duel levels: with one focus being on the physical and emotional agony that terminal illness brings, not only for the victim, but also the anguish experienced by close family and friends. This is coupled with the drama of the guilt the characters have over decisions they have made in the past, and the consequential stress of whether they should reveal these secrets to each other.
There are many themes for discussion: the many stages of life, those we meet and fall in love with along the way, the complexities of human relationships, the pain of illness, the mystery of death … including the transition of the soul after.
The overall message is that love overcomes all pain, and that death, no matter how agonizing and lingering, is only a temporary separation from those who have passed before and are waiting for us to follow them to that ultimately better place.
Nothing in this world lasts forever. Sooner or later, death takes all those we are closest to. It’s how we choose to come to terms and deal with that period of temporary loss and separation that is important.
The story includes an interview with the author, and a list of eight questions that make this story an excellent choice for post-reading discussions in book clubs.