Book Review: Final Chapters: Writings About the End of Life

‘Final Chapters’ is the product of a creative writing competition organised through the Dying Matters Coalition, which was established in 2009 by the National Council for Palliative Care. The book invites 30 contributors to describe their reflections on dying.

 The book symbolises a somber acknowledgment of the tension encountered when cancer becomes the subject of our experiences. On a dual note, the book is also an opportunity for the bringing together of the suppressed moments of our society. There is an unveiling of the strange silence that the existence of cancer leaves in its trail.

 

Furthermore, the marked acknowledgment of cancer in the contributors’ experiences reveals a greater significance. The presence of cancer is integrated as an experience, and not as an isolated or polarized identity that can easily happen when the association of cancer is lent to death. This is reminiscent of the psychiatrist and anthropologist, Arthur Kleinmann’s, distinction between illness and disease; whereby the former is the experience of a biological condition and the latter is the way that its physical structure is identified and categorized.

 

Whilst the book is an internal monologue of the contributors, there is a somewhat beautiful quality to the narratives for creating an entrance into the space of individual final chapters. We learn through the passages of the final chapters that even the last breath holds a story that transcends beyond the moment life surrendered.

 

‘Final Chapters: Writings about the end of life’. Edited by Roger Kirkpatrick; Foreword by Jonathan Dimbleby.

Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London, 2014

ISBN: 978 1 84905 490 4

eISBN 978 0 85700 886 2