Author(s): Kate Gross
What are the things we live for? What matters most in life when your time is short? This brave, frank and heartbreaking book shows what it means to die before your time, and how to fill your life with wonder, hope and joy even in the face of tragedy. Ambitious and talented, Kate Gross worked at Number 10 Downing Street for two British Prime Ministers whilst only in her twenties. At thirty, she was CEO of a charity working with fragile democracies in Africa. She had married 'the best looking man I've ever kissed' - and given birth to twin boys in 2008. The future was bright. But aged 34, Kate was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer. After a two-year battle with the disease, Kate died peacefully at home on Christmas morning, just ten minutes before her sons awoke to open their stockings. She began to write as a gift to herself, a reminder that she could create even as her body began to self-destruct. Written for those she loves,her book is not a conventional cancer memoir; nor is it filled with medical jargon or misery. Instead, it is Kate's powerful attempt to make sense of the woman who emerged in the strange, lucid final chunk of her life. Her book aspires to give hope and purpose to the lives of her readers even as her own life drew to its close. Kate should have been granted decades to say all that she says in these pages. Denied the chance to bore her children and grandchildren with stories when she became fat and old, she offers us all instead her thoughts on how to live; on the wonder to be found in the everyday; the importance of friendship and love; what it means to die before your time and how to fill your life with hope and joy even in the face of tragedy.
'Raw, honest, yet unexpectedly positive ... A warm and oddly uplifting read. Gross is funny in the darkest moments of truth. Neither falsely upbeat nor purposefully dramatic or tear-jerking, the book brings Gross to life' Independent 'Shows you how to live life to the brim ... boy, does [Kate's] writing have pulse. Clear-sighted and cold-eyed, her sentences are light as leaves and she was as wise as a magi ... When [her twins] wonder about their mother, here she will be, bold and brave, caught on the page in all her wonderful vitality' Mail on Sunday, 5* 'This book could make you rethink the way you live your whole life ... there is a sense of wonder, a determination to live and love with her whole heart in the little time [Gross] has left ... Funny and sharp and celebratory' Sunday Express, 5* 'A joyful act of love ... witty, always serious, but rarely solemn. Her prose is grounded, unshowy and blessed with a casual poetry ... To read this book is to learn what can be snatched back from death ... it is vividly, beautifully alive' Robert Webb, New Statesman 'It is extremely difficult to write on this subject evocatively, but without sentimentality ... [Kate] treats herself as a case study, a bystander with a story to tell. The effect is readable, engaging and enriching ... To do that as your final act is amazing' Daily Telegraph 5* 'Gross writes with steadfast, exquisite skill and although this remarkable book is hard to get through without a box of hankies, it is also one of the most galvanising you are likely to read all year. She wanted to pass on the gift of wonder to her sons; her gift to her reader is to inspire them to live life with as much joy, hunger and gusto as she did - READ IT AND LEAP' Metro 'With her lucid prose and piercing perception she is as much of a loss to the world of literature as she is to politics ... Should be mandatory reading for every adult, urging them to fight the human impulse to take life in all its richness for granted' Daily Express 5*
Kate Gross is 36 years old. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Billy and their twin sons Isaac and Oscar. Before her cancer, Kate read English at Oxford University. She joined the civil service and worked in Number 10 Downing Street for Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. On leaving, she set up the Africa Governance Initiative, a charity which works to rebuild structures of Government in post-conflict Africa. She was awarded an OBE in 2014 for her work. She blogs at kateelizabethgross.wordpress.com - and writes there in more medical detail than she does in the book which is almost entirely free of any medical jargon or writing on the nature of cancer. It is a book instead about life.