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Book review: ‘The Gift of Time: A Family’s Diary of Cancer’ by Rory MacLean with Joan and Katrin MacLean

When diagnosed terminally ill with cancer, Joan MacLean moved in with her son Rory, a travel writer, and his wife Katrin.  All three kept diaries of their experiences and this book is a compilation of those diaries.

I found the book to be direct and honest because of its diary format.  When Rory had proposed the book, Joan herself had cautioned against anything too “syrupy” and I felt this book was anything but. 

Though presenting the day-to-day struggles of living with terminal illness, the book manages to convey the hopes and fears of all three writers in a compassionate manner.  Through Joan’s effort to put her affairs in order we are offered glimpses of the family’s past and I found this to serve as a celebration of Joan’s life.  Planning for a wedding provided a focus for all the family but in the pages that follow the wedding the stark reality of illness is eloquently described until the inevitable conclusion.  However, despite its poignancy, for me this book was ultimately a celebration of life and family relationships.

This book will enrich and enlighten all who read it but especially those who work with people dying at home and with their families.

Rating: 9/10

Dr Shehriar Hussain is a GP partner in Westhoughton, Lancashire