Have you ever read a book where you loved every single character in the book? The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes was that book for me. The title of the book is self-explanatory, it’s the last days of Rabbit (Mia) Hayes who is losing her battle with cancer. Cancer stories are always heartbreaking to read about, but The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes serves up a fair balance of heartbreak and laughter, which makes it fun and delightful to read.
The story starts off with her arrival at the hospice. Rabbit has been battling cancer for four years since she was diagnosed with breast cancer, but her battle is coming to an end. It started with breast cancer and a few months after having a mastectomy, the cancer was back in her other breast, then liver, then lungs and finally in her bones. We follow her story through her reflections and blog entries, but also from the perspective of family members and friends who are directly affected by the impending death of Rabbit. There is Rabbit’s mother, Molly, a strong woman who refuses to accept that her daughter is dying. Her father, Jack, who is also struggling to accept that his daughter is dying and looks to his wife for strength. The two of them are constantly seeking out the next miracle cure, but eventually they will have to make peace with the fact that they are losing Rabbit.
There is also her brother and sister, Davey and Grace and 12 year old daughter Juliet and her nephews. However, Juliet is kept in the dark about her mother’s health deterioration. She may not have acknowledged the fact that her mother is dying, but I’m sure she knew. The story tells about Rabbit’s present life, but also her past through Johnny’s story. Johnny is her brother’s friend and Rabbit’s first love. Through his story we see Rabbit grow from a teenager into an adult woman.
There are poignant moments in the novel that left me emotional, but there are also moments in the novel that made me laugh out loud. The story reflects on so much more than just Rabbit’s cancer story. This is a story about family, about life, love and death. The latter two being most prominent. Rabbit’s family evidently has so much love for her and it is heartbreaking to read about what they are going through watching her die, but reading Rabbit’s thoughts were of course the highlight of the story.
My favourite part of the novel was the ending. It’s not a spoiler to say she dies at the end and yes, saying the ending is my favourite part sounds bad, but how she died was not described by any of the family members that watched her die, but by Rabbit herself. And it was a beautiful description and a beautiful way to die…