review: Life and Other Near-Death Experiences by Camille Pagán

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Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. I appreciate it!

Official Synopsis
Libby Miller has always been an unwavering optimist—but when her husband drops a bomb on their marriage the same day a doctor delivers devastating news, she realizes her rose-colored glasses have actually been blinding her.

With nothing left to lose, she abandons her life in Chicago for the clear waters and bright beaches of the Caribbean for what might be her last hurrah. Despite her new sunny locale, her plans go awry when she finds that she can’t quite outrun the past or bring herself to face an unknowable future. Every day of tropical bliss may be an invitation to disaster, but with her twin brother on her trail and a new relationship on the horizon, Libby is determined to forget about fate. Will she risk it all to live—and love—a little longer?

From critically acclaimed author Camille Pagán comes a hilarious and hopeful story about a woman choosing between a “perfect” life and actually living.

This is a very likable book, but very predictable, all at the same time. It’s How Stella Got Her Groove Back meets Love Story. A woman is dying of cancer, so she flees to the sunny shores of the Caribbean. There, she meets a sexy local and falls in love. Will she go home and face the music? Will she seek treatment? Does she even want to?

You know the drill.

However, I will say that Life and Other Near-Death Experiences will suck you in. It’s an enjoyable and often emotional read, if a tad rushed and perfunctory in some bits. Libby, the heroine, is frustratingly stubborn, refusing to entertain the idea of fighting the cancer, for fear of opening up memories about her mother, who died when she was very young.

Through her journey, we meet her twin brother Paul (the best of the bunch), her lover Shiloh, her boss Jackie, and her “friend” Jess. These characters are all caricatures in their own ways (supportive gay brother, sexy guy on vacation, psycho bitch boss, unreliable friend…) Her ex-husband Tom is insufferable, and I wanted to stab him with a fork. I guess I’m not alone in that.

Libby’s time in Puerto Rico is lovely, and I felt like I dearly wanted to be there too, learning Spanish and drinking my face off. I understood why she wanted to escape, and what it cost her to return to the darkness of her former life.

Flaws aside, toward the end, I started to really root for Libby. I wanted her to be okay. Though I felt the epilogue summed everything up in a way that felt very pat, still… I was rooting for Libby, and it was good to get the details on what happened to her… she felt worthwhile. If anything, that was my take away from this book – Camille Pagán made Libby’s plight worth noticing and caring about. That’s talent.


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