Destined to be a book club favorite, a heart-wrenching debut about two people who must decide how much they’re willing to sacrifice for love.
“Julie Lawson Timmer’s novel pulls no punches. It takes no prisoners. It is pure and honest. I sat down with this book after dinner and when I looked up it was 2 a.m. and I had turned the last page. My only regret was that there weren’t a hundred more pages. Five Days Left is that compelling.” —Jacquelyn Mitchard, New York Times-bestselling author, The Deep End of the Ocean
“In her beautiful, brave debut, Julie Lawson Timmer examines the limits of love and resilience—as well as the heartbreaking decisions parents must sometimes make. With a fresh revelation on every page, this novel is a gift.” —Camille Noe Pagán, author of The Art of Forgetting
“A beautifully drawn study of what is at risk when you lose control of your own life. Unique, gripping, and viscerally moving—this impressive debut novel heralds the arrival of an extremely talented writer.” —Jodi Picoult, New York Times–bestselling author of Leaving Time
“Timmer’s novel is a heartbreaker, but it is also a stirring debut.” —BookPage
“Timmer’s emotional debut should come with a box of tissues….The characters are so affecting it’s tough to make it to Day 5. An Authentic and powerful story.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Told in the alternating voices of Mara and Scott, Timmer’s debut novel packs a powerful punch. Absorbing, deeply affecting, and ultimately uplifting, it heralds the arrival of an author to watch.”
—Library Journal (starred review)
“This starkly intimate epistolary novel …dissects the experiences of losing hope and finding strength….Timmer makes a powerful debut.” —Publishers Weekly
“Like Joshilyn Jackson, Timmer, in her impressive debut novel, shows a facility for creating authentic characters dealing with heart-wrenching dilemmas….A compelling read and a good choice for book clubs.” —Booklist
I was one of those little kids who wrote stories before I could spell, starting with “The Battle of the Bread and Jams,” penned (completely without vowels) when I was five. I was one of those highschoolers always writing poems, and later, one of those lawyers always wishing she had gotten an MFA instead of a JD.
A few years ago, I became one of those women with a friend dying of cancer. For months, she lay in hospice, knowing her time with her husband and children was drawing to a close. Through it all, she was so graceful and brave. Watching her, I became consumed with the question: How does a woman hold herself together in the face of such breathtaking impending loss? After her death, I knew I had to write a story in order to find answers—one that explored the crushing details, and all of the regret and bitterness and pain a dying mother and wife must struggle with before finding her way, if she ever could, to a place of acceptance and peace.
FIVE DAYS LEFT tells the story of two people who are friends on an anonymous Internet parenting forum. Mara Nichols is a successful lawyer, devoted wife and adoptive mother who lives in Plano, Texas. She has received a life-shattering diagnosis, and is considering taking her life in five days, to spare herself and her family from the end stages of her illness. Scott Coffman, a middle school teacher in Royal Oak, Michigan, has been caring for an eight-year-old boy, Curtis, whose mother is in jail. But Curtis’s mother has been released, and he’s scheduled to return to her in five days. The book follows Mara and Scott as they navigate these five days, both on their own, in Texas and Michigan, and together, on the online forum.
I gave Mara Huntington’s Disease (HD) rather than cancer to provide myself some emotional distance. But, I didn’t get any. When I read about the devastation HD wreaks on its victims, I was immediately possessed. What started as my intent to do “a little high-level research” and then rely on artistic license turned into an overwhelming conviction that I must get HD right, down to the last symptom. Unexpectedly, I became enraged about the unfairness of HD. It was my fury–and my desire to see my friend’s name on the dedication page–that fueled me to keep writing.
I added the online forum to give Mara an escape from the daily horrors of her battle with HD. I wanted her to have friends who didn’t see her as a dying woman deserving of pity, but as the strong, capable friend her online persona allowed her to be. To my knowledge, my friend, who had been, like Mara, a fiercely independent woman, never had an online door through which she could temporarily exit her hospice room and all the sadness and longing she must have felt there. I wish she had.
FIVE DAYS LEFT FIVE DAYS LEFT explores the individual limits of human endurance and the power of relationships, and shows us that sometimes loving someone means holding on, and sometimes it means letting go. It asks a lot of “What would you do?” questions, and it reminds us that there are often no easy answers, and that sometimes, opinions we thought we had such a firm hold on might need to slip a little.
Thank you for reading FIVE DAYS LEFT. I hope you like it.
Julie Lawson Timmer