Prepare to be uplifted, but hankies at the ready …

Ways To Live Forever by Sally Nicholls

List No 1 Five facts about me
1. My name is Sam.
2. I am eleven years old.
3. I collect stories and fantastic facts.
4. I have leukaemia.
5. By the time you read this, I will probably be dead.

The above quote from the very start of this amazing book sets you up for the roller-coaster ride that will be Sam’s last months.  Sam knows he’s going to die, and he has so many questions about it; but they’re all  ones that nobody ever answers.

His home tutor suggests he writes a book about himself, and this is a task that Sam sets to with dedication, sometimes aided by his best friend Felix, who also has cancer.  The resulting book is a story of Sam’s last months, his bucket-list and how he tries to achieve it all, together with discussions of all those difficult questions.

We also meet Sam’s family – his pesky little sister Ella who can’t understand why she has to go to school and Sam doesn’t; his Dad, who finds it hard to talk about things and fervently hopes that Sam isn’t as ill as he really is; and his Mum, who is finding it equally hard, but knows the score.

I constantly welled up reading this book, yet Sam was so brave, inquisitive and happy for such a lot of the time that it was hard to remain sad – there was lots to chuckle about.   The agony of Sam’s parents was hard to take – they suffered more than Sam who, although a thoroughly normal eleven year old and obsessed by all the usual things, was accepting of his fate and determined not to waste time.

This book wasn’t in the least bit sentimental or patronising.  It is, like its young lead, curious about dying. It is also both questionning and matter of fact, yet has an immensely strong emotional core.  You cannot fail to be uplifted by Sam and the memories he will leave behind to live forever.

This is another one of those books, like Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, that is a true crossover read. Written in the first instance for older children, adults will find it a wonderful read too – albeit in a slightly different way.

It will really help you understand what it can be like to live with such an illness in a family.  I cannot recommend it highly enough. (10/10)

* * * * *

I bought my copy.  To buy from Amazon.co.uk, click below:
Ways To Live Forever

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7 thoughts on “Prepare to be uplifted, but hankies at the ready …

    • It was written for older children, but I think they will engage with it in a slightly different way to us grown-ups, who will inevitably see it more from the parents’ PoV. I will imagine they see Sam not wasting a minute left, rather than counting the ones remaining.

    • Jackie – I think you would really enjoy this one. She is incredibly talented, and was only 23 when she wrote it. I have her next book on the TBR too.

  1. Junior daughter read this and passed her copy on to me because she was both moved and impressed by it but I haven’t been in the right frame of mind to read it yet as I can currently find tears welling up at flipping adverts!
    Hormones I think – they will get you eventually Annabel!

    • I did well up several times throughout this book, but it was a wonderful read Liz – hang on to it and enjoy later.

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