last act of loveThe Last Act of Love is a story of love and loss, a life cut short and the consequences on a family.

The publisher’s blurb says “In the summer of 1990 – two weeks before his GCSE results, which turned out to be the best in his school – Cathy Rentzenbrink’s brother Matty was knocked down by a car on the way home from a night out, suffering serious head injuries. He was left in a permanent vegetative state. Over the following years, Cathy and her parents took care of Matty – they built an extension onto the village pub where they lived and worked; they talked to him, fed him, bathed him, loved him. But there came a point at which it seemed the best thing they could do for Matty – and for themselves – was let him go”. 

That is an accurate description of this memoir. What, as the reader you are not prepared for, is the pain and sense of loss that you feel on Cathy and her family’s behalf. This is a raw and devastating story that will make you cry over and over again, yet ten days after reading it I can now only think of the deep, deep love and friendship that Cathy and her brother Matt had for each other. What shines through is the family’s ability to somehow come to terms with this tragedy and not let the anger completely control their lives.

Also what is evident is the wonderful friendship that Cathy and Matty had in their few short years together, however it was deeper than many siblings achieve in a lifetime. There is humour in the book when Cathy and Matty are teasing each other about kissing, girl/boy friends and music and when she shares the tales of antics in the bar their parents owned.

Before I read this book and knew the full extent of her story, Cathy Rentzenbrink was one of my heroes, what she achieves on behalf of Quick Reads is truly awesome as well as the amazing work she does to promote new and emerging authors and as chair of the Booksellers Association Conference she is a wonderful motivator for booksellers. If one can be more than a hero, then Cathy is.

What I, and I am sure many readers will take away from this immensely personal story is the inspiration. After the tears you can come to believe that whatever happens in life, in your life, it is possible to pick up the pieces, albeit very slowly and rebuild yourself and move forward.

The Last Act of Love is a must read for everyone, no one goes through life without heartache, pain and suffering at some stage and this will be an invaluable, inspirational read.

Sheila O’Reilly

9781447286370/£14.99/Pan Macmillan