Biographies / Autobiorgaphies · Non-Fiction.

The Last Act of Love by Cathy Retzenbrink

“I had a brother. He died,” 

This memoir tells of the author’s brother is knocked down by a car in the 1990s and spends nearly a decade in a coma. The main crux of the memoir is the difficult decision Cathy and her family had to make when it became clear that Matty would never recover.

This book certainly doesn’t sugarcoat the struggle that Cathy and her family went through. It also shows how Matty’s accident and later death affected the lives of Cathy and her parents. It’s chilling how much the family’s life is changed in an instant and Matty’s life, so full of promise before, is snatched away in an instant. When Cathy sees that her brother is slowly improving, you know deep down it is too good to be true.

This book is also good at deconstructing feelings of grief and guilt felt by Cathy, and how her brother’s fate affected her in the years after. It doesn’t revel in its sentimentality but rather the sentimentality strengthens it. It makes the story more real.

I cried about three times when reading this book and yet the narrative felt so raw and true. As readers, we are spared nothing when Retzenbrink elucidates the story as it unfolds. We cannot take comfort from it being fictional. It shatters the domestic bliss of her close family in 1990s Yorkshire, and changes their lives forever.

This is another of those books which I feel quite bad for rating because it is such a personal human tragedy. However, it is still brilliantly written all the same. Cathy Retzenbrink still clearly loves her brother very much, and nothing can change that. Not even the passing of time.

MY RATING: **** / *****

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