September 2, 2011 5:05 pm

Gift of Time

Rory MacLean’s memoir of the final months of his mother’s life is both heartbreaking and life-enhancing

Travel writer Rory MacLean’s new book is something of a hard sell: a memoir of the final months of his mother’s life as she succumbs to terminal cancer. One’s instinct is to recoil from such a work in much the same way that we as a culture recoil from the truth about death. But to do so is to miss a moving and fearless engagement with a subject that touches us all.

Told by MacLean, his wife, Katrin, and his mother, Joan, in short but elegantly written diary entries, Gift of Time is both heartbreaking and, oddly, life-enhancing. Joan is lucid, thoughtful and intelligent to the end; MacLean and his wife appear heroic in their willingness to drop everything to care for her in their own home.

As MacLean says: “I have the chance to sit with my mother, to hold her hand, to be close until the hour she dies.” The love that sustains them and the rest of their family throughout this beautiful book is a rebuke to the claims of finality that death makes.

Gift of Time, by Rory MacLean, Constable, RRP£12.99, 224 pages

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