"Read it with a box of tissues."
Reviewed by Jennifer Rummel
Posted June 7, 2021
Contemporary Women's Fiction
Lauren and Josh are happy; but they’re living on borrowed time. Lauren has a terminal illness and despite her husband’s brilliance, he can’t save her. Lauren decides that she’s going to make the most of her time left. She’s going to really live and not waste a moment.
Joshua’s devastated at her death. Lauren brought him out of his shell and into the real world. He’s lost without her. Lauren knew this would happen; she wrote him twelve letters. The letters urged him to break out of his comfort zone. He didn’t always agree with the letters, but he did as she asked. Not all of her requests turned out the way he expected, but he couldn’t deny the results.
The past and the present are woven together in this parallel narrative. Lauren’s timeline shares the details of the disease, her happiness, and her fears. Joshua’s timeline focuses on his grief, trying to pick the pieces of his life back together, and moving forward. Neither timeline is easy to read but both pack an emotional wallop. Kristan Higgins creates another masterpiece in women’s fiction.
Every month, a letter. That's what Lauren decides to leave her husband when she finds out she's dying. Each month, she gives Josh a letter containing a task to help him face this first year without her, leading him on a heartrending, beautiful, often humorous journey to find happiness again in this new novel from the New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins.
Joshua and Lauren are the perfect couple. Newly married, they're wildly in love, each on a successful and rewarding career path. Then Lauren is diagnosed with a terminal illness.
As Lauren's disease progresses, Joshua struggles to make the most of the time he has left with his wife and to come to terms with his future--a future without the only woman he's ever loved. He's so consumed with finding a way to avoid the inevitable ending that he never imagines his life after Lauren.
But Lauren has a plan to keep her husband moving forward. A plan hidden in the letters she leaves him. In those letters, one for every month in the year after her death, Lauren leads Joshua on a journey through pain, anger, and denial. It's a journey that will take Joshua from his attempt at a dinner party for family and friends to getting rid of their bed...from a visit with a psychic medium to a kiss with a woman who isn't Lauren. As his grief makes room for laughter and new relationships, Joshua learns Lauren's most valuable lesson: The path to happiness doesn't follow a straight line.
Sometimes heartbreaking, often funny, and always uplifting, this novel from New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins illuminates how life's greatest joys are often hiding in plain sight.
A scene in which Joshua Park, newly widowed, goes to the mall to buy some new clothes, as instructed in a letter from his late wife.
“What are you looking for, Joshua?”
He had no idea how to answer the question. “Just…everything, I guess.”
“No problem! What do you like? This is quite…cheerful.” He gestured at Josh’s shirt, garish with red and yellow swirls. Cargo pants. Birkenstock sandals with socks.
Somewhere, Lauren was laughing. It almost made him smile.
“Whatever you think,” Josh said. “I don’t have the best taste in clothes.”
“Thank God you said that so I didn’t have to pretend.” Radley grinned. “Okay, let’s get started.” He began plucking things off the racks, a few shirts here, a sweater there. “These pants are really on trend,” he said. “You can cuff them to be extra hipster, if you must. I’d French-tuck this shirt, maybe add a grandpa sweater. Here, why don’t you start trying things on, and I’ll grab some more stuff.”
Josh closed the dressing room door behind him and looked at the mirror. Lauren had coached him in dressing once they’d been dating a little while, but he’d reverted to his old clothes since her death. They predated her, and somehow it was easier to wear things that weren’t attached to her memory.
He pulled on a pair of cotton pants in a shade of orange—coral, Lauren would’ve said—a blue t-shirt, a blue- and yellow- printed button down.
With his haircut, and the new outfit, he didn’t look like the hermit genius workaholic with no life, as he used to be, or the stunned-stupid mouthbreathing widower he’d become.
He looked like the guy who’d married Lauren Carlisle. He looked like her husband.
The pain hit him in the stomach, and he bent over. A keening sound came out of his mouth, and he tried to cover it. Tears rained out of his eyes, and his chest was crushed by the grief.
“Joshua? Are you okay?” came the salesperson’s voice. The door handle jiggled.
How was he supposed to live without her for the rest of his life? Josh’s knees gave out, and he sank to the floor, clamping his arms over his head.
The door opened, and Radley stood there, a key in his hand. “Oh, God, you are so not okay. What can I do? Should I call 911?”
“My…my…” He could barely choke the words out. “My wife…died.”
“Holy Mary. Oh, man.” Radley sat on the little bench and put his hand on Josh’s shoulder. “How horrible.”
It was so embarrassing, crying here, almost funny if it weren’t so utterly, wretchedly awful. He was full-on sobbing now, his arm across his face, tears soaking into the unpurchased shirt. He didn’t want to look like Lauren’s husband. He wasn’t anymore. He had no right to look like Lauren’s husband. He didn’t deserve to, not when he’d failed her.
Don’t be a loser.
Her voice was so clear his head jerked up to see if she was there.
Of course, she wasn’t. He choked on another sob. He was a loser. That was the problem.
“Can I try this on?” asked a bearded guy, holding up a shirt.
“Can’t you see he’s having a crisis?” the salesperson snapped. “Some compassion, please? Come back tomorrow, and I’ll give you forty percent off.”
“I’m sorry,” Josh managed.
“Don’t apologize. Here.” Radley—Ripley?— handed Josh a bandana. “Wipe your face, you poor thing. I’ll lock up.”
Not cool, breaking down like this. His hands shook, and his ribs hurt from crying. He wiped his eyes, blew his nose, and when Radley came back, he was under control again.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t see that coming.”
“It’s totally fine,” Radley said. “How long has it been?”
Radley nodded. “Listen. Do you want to get a drink or something? The mall closes in ten minutes.”
“That’s…that’s really nice of you, but you don’t have to..”
“I know.” He smiled. “I’m sure you have tons of friends to lean on, but sometimes a stranger is easier.”
“Your hair is really cool,” Josh said. Why? Why say that? (But it was.)
“It takes forever, but it’s worth it, right?” Radley said, waving his hand over his head. “Come on. Let’s go get a mangotini or a scotch or something.”
It beat going home to a lifeless apartment and grieving dog.
“Okay,” Josh said. “I’ll take everything, by the way.”
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