The very last list of Vivian Walker by Megan Albany

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Metastasised melanoma is a terminal diagnosis for Vivian Walker and she decides to cross off a number of things on her ‘to do' list in the few months she has left to live. She knows she should be making the most of her last days with her family, including playing handball with eight year old son Ethan and spending time with husband Clint but there is so much unfinished business that lists are Vivian’s way of coping. At the top of her list is 'Clean the fridge'. Clint too has made a list for Viv, 'Basically all the things I don’t have time for because I am too busy with my everyday list. His utopian version will have to wait.' p.xii. Ethan too has made a list and the chapters alternate between the items on each of their lists. Along the way we meet Marsha, Viv’s larger than life best friend who can always put a wickedly positive spin on everything and Sal, her favourite little ray of sunshine friend who has an enthusiasm for life. 'She only ever sells things she truly believes in and Sal, god love her, believes in everything'. p.88. As they negotiate their way towards the inevitable we learn more about Viv’s unruly family and Clint’s snooty mother Isabelle as well as the way these very different personalities negotiate their relationship. Viv has to try and be assertive and not aggressive while Clint has learnt to follow instructions, most of the time. The story doesn’t shy away from the implications of the diagnosis, the loss of ability to do things, the need for stronger drugs for the pain and help with everyday tasks but it does so with sensitivity and gentle humour. Viv is surrounded by people who care about her and ultimately we feel the tragedy of their situation.

Themes: Dying, Family, Cancer.

Sue Speck