Christine Ethier REVIEWS
BEFORE I GO by Colleen Oakley
In “Before I Go”, written by first time author Colleen Oakley, the title refers to the impending death from ‘allkindsofcancer’ of the main character, 27-year-old Daisy Richmond. Written in Daisy’s voice, she bounces around within the stages of grief as she tries to come to terms with the fact that her young life is almost over. She leaves behind an academically promising start to a career in psychology and her relatively new marriage to her husband Jack who is about to graduate from veterinary school. Daisy has always been driven and fiercely independent which is partially explained in the novel by the role reversal household in which she was ‘raised’.
These characteristics don’t change as she approaches death, but rather, as is usually the case, become even more pronounced. Without any help from her concerned and dedicated husband, her quirky best friend, and her weepy mother, she sets her goals for this last period of her life; she will see Jack graduate and she will find him the new woman with whom he will fall in love, the woman who will scratch his back in the middle of the night when Daisy is no longer around to do it. She goes about the process with a wonderful single mindedness, making lists, testing theories, revising and retesting. Finally, in the middle of the process, she reaches a triumphant conclusion.
Qakley’s writing is light, refreshing and easy and the entire piece can be finished in a couple of afternoons. Despite the dark content of the book, the result is not at all bleak but rather occasionally funny, often sensitive, ultimately hopeful and, more than anything else, instructional for every person, and particularly every woman who finds herself in a similar situation. Long before she has to leave this earth and enter into the nothingnesswhich Daisy is relatively sure exists, she comes to a conclusion that women everywhere need to examine seriously. Jack will go on and whatever fashion that takes will be up to him. What has to happen now, with every day and every moment she has left, is that Daisy has to live as fully as she can, focusing on having the best experience and the most fulfilling life possible.
Oakley, who lives in Atlanta, is a freelance journalist who is currently writing her second novel about a character who is allergic to other people. Although you should not expect a tome that is deeply nuanced or full of newly discovered truths, ‘Before I Go’ covers its chosen topic with a light touch and a nice range of emotional poignancy.
Christine Ethier is a textbook author, web writer, communication consultant, and retired university English instructor. She was born in Peterborough ON and now lives in New Brunswick with her unparalleled husband and two wonderful fur babies.