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After the End - July book club

(65 Posts)
SarahGransnet (GNHQ) Fri 19-Jul-19 12:42:10

Winners of After the End should have received their copies now. And here's the place to leave your thoughts and questions for the author, Clare Mackintosh.

Crocky Fri 19-Jul-19 13:14:09

After the End by Claire Mackintosh.

This is a book that I read in one go, as I found that I became engrossed in the story and couldn’t put it down. In fact I am still going back and re-reading parts of it and wondering how I would have coped in a similar situation.

The Author herself states in her notes ‘it was an incredibly difficult to write and for many people it will be a difficult book to read’ but please, please do read all of it as you will not regret it.

The main characters are Pip and her husband Max, a loving couple with a critically ill small child. They have to make an impossible decision whether to continue with treatment or remove life support and let him die. The decision they make will affect their future.

Again from the Author ‘this is a story not about loss but about hope’

We cannot predict our future but we can choose to live again.

My question to Claire is:- It was incredibly brave of you to write this book and to use some of your own experiences in doing so. I have only had to make such decisions about much loved family pets. Was your use of the Robert Frost poem and the two paths with a similar ending, intentional from the beginning or developed as the story evolved?

HHBBNN54 Fri 19-Jul-19 18:41:06

I have just started reading your book, what a true to life book in my mind. Parents having to make a difficult decision regarding a small child. Do you ever suffer with writers block as so many people do that you hear about.

Rachel123 Fri 19-Jul-19 23:32:47

After the End is a book which will stay with me for a long time !! I finished it with tears rolling down my face but with also a positive feeling inside
The book explores the realities of having to make a life changing decision As individuals we all have our own views but if these differ from others involved it makes that decision even more difficult. I am so glad to have read this emotion filled book, which has left an imprint on my heart. Everyone who reads this book will appreciate and understand life just a little more. It is evident this novel has been written from the heart and I feel that is why it is so special. Brilliant emotive writing and definitely one of my top reads recently .

My question to Clare is was this a difficult book to write? And did it bring back emotional memories or was it helpful to you personally?

LullyDully Sat 20-Jul-19 11:51:06

Thanks again for the book which I may not have read otherwise. It was a compelling read. I know the hospital well and had friends in a similar dilemma.
I was intrigued by the dual tread of the two possible scenarios which often intertwined and seemed more overlapping than parallel.
My question is did you ever worry about being so open, and how much of the story was similar to your own? I ask this respectfully.

granh1 Sat 20-Jul-19 16:32:03

The book concerns a very sick child, Dylan, and his parents Pip and Max, and follows their journey as they decide what to do in his best interests, and the repercussions of their decisions.
The first section is very focused on the family unit and is easy to follow. The second section is disjointed, both in time, place and is interspersed with ‘What if’ scenarios, maybe a reflection on how their lives are disintegrating.
I can quite see it was written to make sense of the past, and with the hope of helping others in a similar situation, but I have reservations. To some one with no experience of such trauma, it might look like an intrusion into another’s grief. To someone involved with such a situation, it might be too raw. To someone who has moved on it might unearth past emotional stress and memories which haven’t quite healed. I found the media intrusion realistic, but very disturbing.
There are some universal truths in the book. The road not taken – everyone probably has had to choose a path/ make a decision even over trivial things, then wonders if it was the right decision. Emotional meltdown and depression are a common result of unbearable stress, what ever the cause. Then there is the concept of ‘reality’. Someone with an injured mind could well not appreciate that their reality is different from what others perceive as reality – but which reality is the most valid?
A couple of decades ago I faced a husband recovering from a stroke, a son with cancer, and a daughter with anorexia, all at the same time – a traumatic and isolating experience of being the top of the ‘carer chain’. I coped by becoming emotionally detached and following the mantra ‘ Endure what can’t be changed, have courage to change what can be changed, and have the wisdom to see the difference’; and ‘Time will eventually resolve and even heal’ . I can see how Pip and Max were changed by their experiences.
A question – Pip has the courage to move on with her life. Do you think that, in some way, she was lucky to be able to do that, instead of facing endurance and compromise?

rocketstop Sun 21-Jul-19 13:29:03

This was in a way, a difficult book to read, but in no way as difficult as it must have been to write.
How do you say you 'Enjoyed' the book when it's such a sad subject?
Clare has portrayed this situation very well, and it's rare that someone is balanced enough to give an account from both sides, understanding the other person's decisions and not holding onto the bitterness and bile that it caused at the time.
Clare, I don't really need to ask you something that I would feel was intrusive, so instead I shall say that this book was a perfect tribute to parents everywhere and all they would gladly endure so their children didn't have to.
What better memorial could you give to a child? You have shared them with the world..and the world feels better for knowing them.
Well done Clare.

Wendy Sun 21-Jul-19 19:53:05

This must have been a very difficult book to write for Clare. I found it a difficult book to read, not only for the subject matter but because it wasn’t easy to keep track of the first chapters, filling in the background. The book is written in two parts ‘Before’ and ‘After’.

After the court decision the story goes in different directions with Pip getting her decision to let Dylan die naturally in her story and Max getting his decision to take Dylan to America for treatment, which may or may not work or even give Dylan a life worth living, in his story. With alternating chapters, one from Pip’s point of view and one from Max’s with a couple about Laila thrown in, the years go backwards and forwards between 2015 and 2019, making the story difficult to follow.

The characters are well written and believable but after Max got together with Blair and Pip with Lars, for me the ending didn’t ring true.

My question for Clare is: Why didn’t you write the story in chronological order?

Miniperson Mon 22-Jul-19 18:06:15

What an amazing book! I was gripped from the start and found it difficult to put down. Clare Mackintosh is incredibly brave to write about a topic so close to her heart. Thank you, Clare, for highlighting the dilemmas faced by your characters.. I thought it interesting how she portrayed the alternative endings, although I did have to concentrate to remember which ‘verdict’ I was reading about. Highly recommended!

trisher Mon 22-Jul-19 18:30:27

Well I read this and I find myself trying desperately to reconcile my conflicting thoughts about it. It isn't a book I would have chosen to read had I picked it up in a shop or library. When I read about the author's loss at the end of the book I think I viewed it somewhat differently but I still couldn't get over the problems I found in it. I couldn't relate to either of the main characters and I felt that the whole story was plot driven which made both Max and Pip somehow less real. The second part with its separate outcomes I simply found really annoying. I also wish she hadn't used Robert Frost's poem which of course is not about there being two roads, but that we can only ever take one.
I also thought there were a couple of discrepancies. How could the paramedic be guilty of leaking the story to the press when Max had already written on line and created a crowdfunding account? Newspaper reporters do pick things up from social media. And secondly Max was working for an American firm and spending time in the USA, even if he worked out of the UK office, so surely he would have kept his medical insurance?
I'd like to ask Claire which she thinks most important in her writing, character or plot?

Qwerty Mon 22-Jul-19 20:46:26

Definitely a book of two halves, I found the first half, up to the Court's decision, clearly written, compelling and engrossing, despite it being a book I might not normally have read. The author's person experience shines through in the detail and complexity of the situation.
The characters were authentic and well "fleshed out".
However I was less keen on the "sliding doors" treatment of the second half with its alternative endings. I find this genre fits a cinematic experience better where one is totally immersed. Personally I never read a book in one sitting (life gets in the way however much I am enjoying a book). Consequently I found the combination of changing time periods and characters fragmented. I would have preferred the author to select either outcome and follow it through which would have made for a more cohesive experience for me. This would not have prevented me from considering the pros and cons of each decision and reaching my own opinion on the more desirable of the horrendously difficult choices.
My question for Jane is: why did you decide to opt for alternative endings and can you think of any advantages following only one decision might have had?

Qwerty Mon 22-Jul-19 20:53:26

Sorry Clare not Jane! I am currently reading Jane Thynne's "Black Roses".

BrandyButter Mon 22-Jul-19 20:58:29

I think I am going to be in the minority but I did not like this book at all. I could not relate to the main characters and just could not enagage in their emotions. I understand the strong emotional subject matter and feel it could have been a very strong storyline I just cannot feel it and I am not sure why. It is not one I would have chosen by choice and not my usual genre but I am open to emplore any story if it initially grabs my attention and this book did not. I persevered with it for a while but found it very boring. I found the backwards and forwards format difficult to follow. Not one for me I am afraid.

GrandmaEvie Mon 22-Jul-19 23:10:33

I found this a difficult book to read and often wondered if I could continue. So pleased I did even with tears running down my cheeks. So well written, I cared about all of the characters.
The second part was very different but I liked the way it made me think and try to decide which I thought would have been the right decision. I couldn't.
My questions for Clare are did you find it difficult to write the 2 different paths in the second part and did you write them separately and then merge them together or did you write them as they appear in the book?
Thank you for a very emotional read.

gmelon Tue 23-Jul-19 00:15:40

I've downloaded this on Audible.
Have not read the PP just in case I see too much detail about the book.

Mythbirtthedragon Tue 23-Jul-19 07:41:14

This is a story of two distinct parts; the before and after. I won’t run through the plot as I don’t want to let slip any spoilers but I did find it engaging and involving, particularly the second part and the movement across time and people and the final twist at the end.
My question for Claire is ‘Have you considered writing/have you written about your own experience.’

Mopsx4 Tue 23-Jul-19 13:00:42

I started this book not knowing what to expect or how I would feel as we were just making a similar decision for my lovely mil who has just had a massive stroke.
When I got to the second half of the book at first it took some getting used to the two threads - one from pips point of view and one from Max’s - but I found it gave an insight in how the ruling outcomes could have been. I wondered if knowing the outcome made Max’s story less real.
Claire did it take a lot of courage to write about your personal experience and has it helped being able to share your experience with others?

Purpledaffodil Wed 24-Jul-19 20:36:45

I read this in one sitting, desperate to know the court’s decision. Ironic really as you never do. But thoroughly enjoyed the unusual presentation of alternative endings. Certainly it made the reading more complex but fleshed out the story and characters.
Thought it was a brave decision of the author to revisit such a personal story. Would like to ask her if it helped exorcise the demons of such a loss?

Alygran Wed 24-Jul-19 21:29:44

I enjoyed the book but as others have said the second part took a bit of concentration. I liked the idea of the different outcomes and the final twist.
My question is did you ever intend to have a verdict but found it too hard to write?

lolarabbit Thu 25-Jul-19 14:37:42

Thank you for sending me a copy of this book.
I was I initially concerned that I would find the subject matter too upsetting but in fact I did not find this to be the case. I was quite engrossed by the first part if the book and found the writing style appealing and believable. However I really did not like the way the second half of the book was structured. I often only have time to read in short chunks and ended up confused and frustrated, so much so that at Chapter 40 I am the verge of giving up.
I feel great sympathy for Clare's personal situation and hope that writing this book has been helpful for her in some way. Unfortunately I did not find myself relating to the characters of Pip and Max and think that the disjointed nature of the second half made this worse.
My question for Clare is why she chose to structure it this way and not write the two alternative paths as separate/discreet parts or at least have longer segments for each timeline?

Grannyknot Fri 26-Jul-19 10:19:10

After The End if you are still reading it, there might be spoilers - I found the story to be interesting, especially with the contemporary element of Max turning so quickly to social media to seek help (including financial help) and possibly to assuage his feelings of powerlessness, and the monster that it can - and did in this case - unleash. The way the author writes about this is authentic and quite terrifying - at a time when were I in that situation privacy and quiet would be high on my list of priorities. Horrifying to think that strangers would get involved in something like this for the wrong reasons.

I liked the Iranian consultant character and found the story around her to be really interesting too. I was aware throughout reading the book that Dylan in the hospital bed was "absent", passive, and that made an impact on me as a reader, telling its own story.

I struggled however with the dual scenario in the second half of the book, I would have preferred a fixed outcome to end the book without any detours. I have actually put it aside for now and will pick it up again in a day or two.

I then Googled and read an interview with Clare Mackintosh about her twin boys in NICU and the terrible decision her and her husband had to face, and I understood better about After The End and why she wrote it. My heart goes out to the author and her husband. How very hard life can be sometimes.

I don't really have any questions for the author, having read further about the book and interviews and articles. I just want to say that I understand why this book poured out of her and when the time was right. An interesting and thought-provoking book.

dancingnana1 Fri 26-Jul-19 21:50:04

A great book to read. I felt for Pip through out but not for Max. He had a typical male attitude .

Biddysue Sun 28-Jul-19 12:23:54

A though provoking book and what was clear in the first part that it was written with great understanding of how painful it must be to have a child in intensive care, I later realised the authors tragic experience.
I thought that the doctor’s position was well portrayed also.
I found the second half of the book a little difficult at first to follow and somewhat less realistic but feel it portrays that life throws up horrendous times which somehow people manage to move on from in their own way.
It is a book not written for entertainment I feel but is extremely thought provoking and well worth persevering with.
My question is did Clare talk to her son’s doctors as in the book because she has portrayed the doctor’s position so well.

mummydiaz Sun 28-Jul-19 13:35:26

I found this book very emotive and extraordinarily well written. For a book with this subject matter it was so compelling a read. Right until the very end I thought it might have been inspired by the Charlie Gard trauma and then read that at the end Clare also suffered a similar tragedy and obviously this is why it is so well written and so very readable. I found this book so moving and have passed it on to my family to read.
All I can say is ..well done Clare for writing so sympathetically about such an emotive issue

granfromafar Sun 28-Jul-19 16:50:40

I read this book in a couple of days as found it hard to put down. I wouldn't say that it's an enjoyable read but I felt it was extremely well written and researched, plus of course the subject matter being so close to the author's heart makes it very poignant. I would definitely read any more books that Clare writes. Have now passed it to another gransnetter.