What would you do if you knew you would have to say a final goodbye to someone you love? When is it the right time to let go, and when should you hold on? Julie Lawson Timmer tackles these questions with fierce emotion in her first novel, Five Days Left. It’s the moving story of a countdown for two characters who never meet in person, but have become friends through a parenting website.
Mara Nichols has a plan to end her life. She has already chosen a date—five days from now, her birthday. The “garage cocktail” will put an end to the suffering she has endured since being diagnosed with Huntington’s disease. Mara’s husband and 5-year-old daughter, Lakshmi, are unaware of Mara’s plan. Though Mara doesn’t want to leave her family, she also doesn’t want to wait for Huntington’s to take over her body, a progression Timmer describes in brutal prose. Mara’s hands move uncontrollably; she develops a drunken-looking gait; she can no longer drive. All these things solidify Mara’s resolve to take her life.
Scott Coffman also has just five days left—but his countdown involves time spent with his precocious and endearing foster child, Curtis, who is to be returned to his birth mother once she finishes a sentence in prison. But a sudden turn of events causes Scott to consider a future with Curtis. His pregnant wife is reluctant, and Scott finds himself faced with a choice between Curtis’ needs and those of his wife.
Five Days Left presents the kind of ethical dilemma that readers love. The characters are relatable; their choices will be the topic of fierce debate at the next book club. Timmer’s novel is a heartbreaker, but it is also a stirring debut.