Read our review and book club questions to With The End In Mind by Dr Kathryn Mannix.
Working with and around death positive people, charities and organisations, I was very comfortable with the thought of reading Kathryn’s’ book.
I’m also lucky enough to have had the pleasure of meeting her on a few occasions and hear her speak (if you get the opportunity then take it!). So, it wasn’t a difficult decision to read it on my holiday. However, reviewing it and explaining why you too should take it away with you, and then share it, has given me some great contemplation.
Let’s be up front about it – it is a book about dying, death, life, sadness, reality, grief, happiness. Given the subject matter, would that encourage you to go and buy it?
It was certainly considered an unusual choice, by some, for holiday reading. There I was, stretched out on a sunbed, iced drink to hand, and there were a few tears, some laugh out loud moments and plenty of smiles and nods, which made my husband very curious about what I was reading.
He’s heard Kathryn Mannix’s name mentioned quite a bit between the office and commuter run, and when I eventually put the book down on day two, he asked ‘so what is it about?’
Hmmm, what to say? Cue ‘dying, death, life, sadness, reality, grief, happiness, people and lives. Errmm, this is what the book gives us an insight to, but it’s much more than that. Not wanting to put him off and truly believing he should read it, I answered; ‘it’s stories, real stories, real lives. It will be a great one to read after you’ve finished your book’
I felt I’d nailed it without mentioning the obvious ‘dying, death, life, sadness, reality, grief, happiness.’ ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘so why should I read it?’ I was not expecting the question and I just wanted to say, ‘because you should, everyone should’, but I knew that would not result in him reading it.
So, I settled on this. ‘Because each story is real and interesting, they are authentic, and Kathryn writes in such a way that I think most people will relate to them. The different perspectives, both personal and professional are really insightful, warming and comforting. Her vulnerability shines through, which just makes it all the more credible.’ Did I nail it? Yup, and as he started reading, he couldn’t wait to tell me about how he felt about each person. He was so engaged; his review is to follow.
Is With The End In Mind an easy read?
If you enjoyed it as much as I did, you will be working out who to give it to or recommend it to next! From a woman’s perspective I dare you not to identify to some of the aspects of these wonderful real stories or Kathryn’s life. So, although some of the stories will make you think and challenge your emotions, it is a fabulous journey and a thoroughly worthwhile read.
When on holiday I usually take the time to read stories that don’t fit into my normal repertoire and are more diverse, more often than not these recommendations come from my wife or friends. This time was no exception, my wife suggested that I read ‘With the end in mind,’ she’d been reading it and I was intrigued. My only preconception about the book was that it was all about death. This came from the cover which belies the real value contained within.
The book is broken into individual stories based on the experiences of Dr Mannix and I found her writing style very engaging, recounting via short stories her personal life experiences. She provides the situational context along with a descriptive narrative which really draws you in.
The book challenged my perception of the dying process, what I had held to be true was in some cases completely reversed. The roles played by a hospice, practitioners in palliative care, nurses, doctors and other agencies were given more clarity and meaning through the storytelling.
Our experiences growing up form our core beliefs, and what Dr Mannix does is provide real-life examples where those are challenged. The insight that I have gained and therefore can share with others is two-fold: Firstly, dying should not and doesn’t have to be a painful experience either for the individuals involved, or for the family and friends. Secondly, I was inspired by those that seek to make a difference in what can at times be difficult circumstances. The generosity of human nature knows no boundaries.
These stories will make you laugh, cry, gasp and change your perspective, I would highly recommend this book because it will influence your outlook on the dying process.
Once again, I am grateful to my wife for another compelling read.
Here are some reading questions to get you started:
1. Do you feel the same way at the beginning of the book as you do at the end? What’s changed?
2. Did this book remind you of anything else you have read? How does it compare?
3. Did you empathise with or relate to any particular person in the book? Why?
4. Is there anything further you would want to investigate/research/act on after reading this book?
5. Were there any particular passages or lines from the book that were especially compelling?
Looking for a new book review? Read our book club thoughts and book club questions on The Salt Path by Raynor Winn
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