What’s it all about?:
In the summer of 1990 – two weeks before his GCSE results, which turned out to be the best in his school – Cathy Rentzenbrink’s brother Matty was knocked down by a car on the way home from a night out, suffering serious head injuries. He was left in a permanent vegetative state. Over the following years, Cathy and her parents took care of Matty – they built an extension onto the village pub where they lived and worked; they talked to him, fed him, bathed him, loved him. But there came a point at which it seemed the best thing they could do for Matty – and for themselves – was let him go. With unflinching honesty and raw emotional power, Cathy describes the unimaginable pain of losing her brother and the decision that changed her family’s lives forever. As she delves into the past and reclaims memories that have lain buried for many years, Cathy reconnects with the bright, funny, adoring brother she lost and is finally able to see the end of his life as it really was – a last act of love. Powerful, intimate and intensely moving, this is a personal journey with universal resonance – a story of unconditional love, of grief, survival and the strength of the ties that bind. It’s a story that will speak to anyone who has lost someone close to them, to anyone who has fiercely loved a sibling, and to anyone who has ever wondered whether prolonging a loved one’s life might be more heartbreaking than saying goodbye.
What did WE think?:
BETH: Great question! A lot of the times I really feel it depends on the subject matter and the non fiction book in question. Sometimes it can be a bit dry but other times it can be written in a way that is just as compelling as reading a piece of fiction. This was definitely the case with The Last Act Of Love. It was quite literally a page turner and I managed to read it within a day as I just couldn’t put it down. It was terribly sad and at times almost unbearable to read but I’m infinitely glad that I did.
BETH: This is a harrowing story but ultimately uplifting. How did you feel when you reached the end of the book?
CHRISSI: I’m not a major fan of non fiction, as you know, but this book completely pulled me in. You’re right, it was such a harrowing story but it really was uplifting and I think that’s down to the fact that you can tell, as a reader, how much love was felt for Matt. His family really adored him and it was plain to see that. I loved that we got to read more about how the tragic event affected Cathy long after the accident. It was heart-warming to read Cathy’s letter to her brother at the end of the book. This book was an act of love in itself, as Cathy rawly and honestly opens up and it’s a beautiful thing. I felt incredibly moved by the end of the book.
CHRISSI: What does this book tell us about the nature of love?
BETH: Quite a lot. Love comes in many forms but is especially strong in a parent-child or sibling relationship. Obviously when Matt first had his accident, the family cannot bear for him to die so do everything possible in their power to try and prevent this, even taking him out of the hospital environment and learning how to care for him at home. However, after many years when he remains in a persistent vegetative state, they realise that they may be making it more difficult for him than just being strong enough to let him go. Their last act of love is making the hugely difficult decision to let him pass away but it’s not a decision they take lightly.
BETH: You’re not normally a fan of non fiction – what was it about The Last Act Of Love that touched you so deeply?
CHRISSI: I am definitely not a fan of non fiction, but memoirs have always been the kind of non fiction that I do enjoy reading. I enjoy raw honesty even if it’s hard to read at times. I really felt that Cathy laid herself bare with this memoir. As I mentioned before, it was an act of love in itself writing this memoir. I really feel like Cathy had the most wonderful relationship with her brother and that relationship did touch me deeply.
CHRISSI: Did reading this book, knowing it was a memoir, affect your emotions more?
BETH: One hundred percent. Knowing that all of this really happened and that the family suffered for so long made it all the more traumatic. It must have been a very hard book for his sister to write, although it seemed that she got so much out of this process. I feel honoured as a reader that she chose to share her experiences with the world and really hope that she can come to terms with what has happened in time. Such an emotional read!
BETH: Would you read another book by this author fiction or otherwise?
CHRISSI: Yes, I would. I thought Cathy had a very engaging writing style. This book, despite it being so very sad, was such a page turner!
Would WE recommend it?:
BETH: But of course!
CHRISSI: Without a doubt!
BETH’s star rating (out of 5):
CHRISSI’s star rating (out of 5):