Young Mara, wife of a doctor, mother to an adopted daughter, and successful lawyer, has been diagnosed with Huntington’s disease. When she learns that it’s a progressive neurological disease that evolves with memory loss, spastic and uncontrollable body movements, loss of all ability to care for oneself, and ends inevitably in death, she promises herself that she will end her life.
Her plan is simple: sleeping pills, vodka, and carbon monoxide poisoning, allowing her to drift away. What is not so simple is choosing the time — not so soon that she loses time with her family, not so late she becomes too incapacitated to carry out her plan. And, of course, the real agony is leaving her family behind. Especially her husband, who insists he wants to be with her until the bitter end.
The book opens, as the title implies, when she has just five days left to her chosen date. Meanwhile, across the country Scott also has five days left — five days until his foster son whom he loves unconditionally will be returned to his mother as she’s released from prison. Scott and Mara find each other on a blog about non-traditional families, and are able to offer each other some comfort.
This story explores suicide and loss with a heartbreaking understanding much like Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You. Book clubs will want to have plenty of tissues at hand for this incredibly moving and sensitive novel.
Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam/Penguin; ISBN 978-0-39916-734-8; $26.95.