Love often exceeds the power of words, but Karen Neulander is doing her best. Whenever she has a spare moment, Karen tries to write her way to telling her son how deeply she adores him. Someday, she won’t be there to say it herself.
Karen has stage IV ovarian cancer, and it’s only a matter of time before she leaves 6-year-old Jake to face the world without his mother by his side. She’s made plans for her son’s care after her death, but Karen also wants him to know her. She is the parent who loved him and cared for him no matter what. She’s been his only parent—until recently.
As Karen faces a terminal diagnosis and tries to reconcile her son’s life without her, Jake asks for the one thing she’s reluctant to give: his father. See, Karen’s pregnancy was a surprise, and her then-boyfriend, Dave, was uninterested in becoming a father. After Karen told Dave she was pregnant, his bad reaction led her to cut him out of her life forever.
That was the plan, anyway. But how can she deny Jake a chance to meet the person who provided the other half of his DNA? Surely it’ll be a one-time meeting, Karen convinces herself.
If only life were so simple.
Our Short History is the book Karen writes as she grapples with mortality, love and the fear that her ex will take Jake away before her final days. It’s a meditation on love and grief, and lauded novelist Lauren Grodstein (A Friend of the Family) plunges into both beautiful and ugly emotions without hesitation. That’s real life, after all. Even when we want the best for someone, our own self-interest and insecurities can arise. It’s what we do afterward that can truly reveal love.