Saturday 24 February 2018

With the End in Mind - Kathryn Mannix

In this unprecedented book, palliative medicine pioneer Dr Kathryn Mannix explores the biggest taboo in our society and the only certainty we all share: death.

Told through a series of beautifully crafted stories taken from nearly four decades of clinical practice, her book answers the most intimate questions about the process of dying with touching honesty and humanity. She makes a compelling case for the therapeutic power of approaching death not with trepidation but with openness, clarity and understanding.
With the End in Mind is a book for us all: the grieving and bereaved, ill and healthy. Open these pages and you will find stories about people who are like you, and like people you know and love. You will meet Holly, who danced her last day away; Eric, the retired head teacher who, even with Motor Neurone Disease, gets things done; loving, tender-hearted Nelly and Joe, each living a lonely lie to save their beloved from distress; and Sylvie, 19, dying of leukaemia, sewing a cushion for her mum to hug by the fire after she has died.
These are just four of the book’s thirty-odd stories of normal humans, dying normal human deaths. They show how the dying embrace living not because they are unusual or brave, but because that’s what humans do. By turns touching, tragic, at times funny and always wise, they offer us illumination, models for action, and hope. Read this book and you’ll be better prepared for life as well as death.

What did I think?

I'd heard a lot about With the End in Mind so I was thrilled to win a copy in a Goodreads giveaway.  I like to read a non-fiction book now and again, and what a great choice this was.  It is the perfect book to dip in and out of, in fact I recommend reading only one chapter at a time.  This way you can fully appreciate each story as, the way it is so warmly written by Kathryn Mannix, each person is brought to life so magnificently that I needed a few moments to get over the pain of their loss as their chapter ended.

Before reading, I didn't realise that Kathryn Mannix was a consultant at the RVI in Newcastle, but there were little regional hints in the book that led me to google her.  The warmth, vigour and resilience of the North Easteners is evident in the book as we read about some amazing people who Kathryn has helped as they commenced their final journey.  The writing is so soothing, warm and respectful that it easily draws you into each person's story and I felt so honoured to get a glimpse into such personal moments in a person's life.  

Although it is a difficult subject, as nobody wants to admit their own mortality, With the End in Mind is very easy to read and takes the fear out of dying.  The book is written in 6 sections: Patterns, My Way, Naming Death, Looking Beyond the Now, Legacy and Transcendence.  Within each section there are some very imaginative, often musical, chapter titles and I take my hat off to Kathryn Mannix for coming up with them.  Each section starts with an introduction, then there are a few stories of actual cases before the section finishes off with Pause for Thought, leaving us with a thought-provoking summary.

I don't know about you, but when I think of death I imagine gasping for breath and feeling pain before suddenly expiring, but now I know that is not the case.  It's a sobering and emotional book; I read some stories with tears rolling down my face but not necessarily with sadness as I couldn't help but smile at the strength and character of the wonderful people in the book.  Kathryn Mannix has written a very fitting testament to so many remarkable people and has taught me not to be afraid of saying the 'D' word.

With the End in Mind is a recommended read for people of all ages, religions and beliefs.  I'm not going to part with my copy, it is a book I can see myself turning to for comfort when I need it, but also to read the amazing stories again when I need a little boost of strength or courage.  Although death is not everyone's preferred reading matter, I urge you to read this outstanding book which, to me, is more about the amazing gift of life than the finality of death.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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