Friday, February 14, 2020
Photos of You
Alright y'all, so this heart tugging beauty was sent to me by Forever Publishing and the Hachette Book Group. This is a cancer story that just puts you through an emotional roller coaster. Tammy Robinson is an amazing writer, and has admitted that she cried while writing this book. I will admit that I went from tears in my eyes to full blown ugly crying during some parts, and there were moments where I laughed or smiled. Tammy has this set in New Zealand, but you honestly can't tell except for a few key words that are definitely used across the pond. Once I read the ending, I had that moment of wondering what I do in this situation. I am super grateful this isn't my reality, but Tammy Robinson does amazing with her story telling skills to remind us that anything can happen. Let's dive in before I start crying again shall we?
Ava Green is sitting in her oncologist on her 28th birthday for what she thought would be a standard recession check up. She had already battled and beat cancer before at such a young age. However, her doctor says the three words she always dreads "I'm so sorry". Ava only catches a few more words as everything becomes muffled for her. "Secondary, bone, incurable" are the only words that filter through. Her cancer is back and this time there is no hope or cure. Ava leaves the hospital and sits on a bench in the hospital garden, and starts to cry over the fact that she will never get married or have kids. She bends over to hide her face when an elderly hospital patient asks her to scoot over. When the woman sits down, she asks Ava if she just received bad news for a family member, and Ava can only shake her head. The woman asks if it was for herself, and Ava just nods. The woman lights a cigarette while Ava tries to pull herself together. She asks Ava if it's cancer, and then tells Ava about her own cancer story in a few sentences when Ava nods. Ava finally sits up and looks at the woman. The woman finishes her cigarette that she admits she is addicted to despite having cancer herself, and then gets up to go back inside. She tells Ava if there is something she wants to do, she needs to do it before it is too late. Ava decides that the one thing she wants to do more than anything is get married.
Ava arrives at her childhood home to her "surprise" birthday party that her parents are throwing her. She decides not to tell anyone that she won't see her 29th birthday thanks to the cancer returning. Her best friends Kate and Amanda are also there, and think back on a night where the three of them got super drunk. Kate, a General Physician at a local community clinic, and Amanda, a touring rock star, have been there for Ava through a lot. They were even there when Ava battled cancer the first time. Ava has no idea how to tell them or her parents that it's back and terminal. Ava does her best to hide her confusing emotions about the news and just enjoy the party. Her mom makes a speech about how proud she is of Ava and her dad presents her with a travel backpack she had been saving up for. Inside the backpack is also an open return date ticket to Rio, and Ava has to excuse herself from the main room to hide the tears threatening to spill down her face.
Once inside the safety of her childhood bedroom, Ava lets the tears flow for a few minutes. Ava pulls herself together, and is about to walk out the door when she catches her old dream board. It is covered in wedding magazine photos that she has cut out as she planned her dream wedding for as long as she can remember. Her mom opens the door, and tells her to come back out with her guests. Ava follows her back out into the main room. Amanda asks her in a quiet voice if she is okay, and Ava whispers a no before announcing to the whole room that she is getting married. The room goes quiet just before her parents work on sending guests out politely. Once it is just Ava, her parents, Amanda, and Kate, Ava quickly tells them about the cancer news. While the five of them drink some whiskey, Ava tells them everything the doctor said earlier. Her mom decides that they will go back to the doctor tomorrow and get him to repeat everything again. Ava can only nod while Amanda and Kate cry silently. Her dad looks pale yellow while he asks if Ava should be drinking, but she assures him that it can't hurt anymore than anything else right now.
The next day, Ava and her mom are back in the oncologist office listen to the doctor explain everything again about the cancer returning and there being no cure. He says that Ava has somewhere between 12 and 18 months to live when her mom pushes for a timeline. Ava decides that she doesn't want to do any treatment since it will just take away moments she no longer has. Her mom tries to protest until Ava explains that she doesn't want to be weakened to the point she can't live her life. Her mom and doctor accept this despite both of them wanting to have a treatment course.
Ava spends three days straight in her flat wallowing in the same outfit before her mom makes her take a shower and get dressed to leave. They go back to the oncologist office and comes up with a treatment plan of oral chemo that won't require surgery or weaken her to the point she can't get out of bed. Her mom also tries to convince Ava to move back home, but she decides to move in with Kate at her home on the beach. Av makes sure that Kate knows that it is not going to be easy or a house party before moving her stuff into the house.
Fall turns into Winter as the oral chemo does what the box promises to do and drains her completely some days. Ava winds up in the hospital twice due to dehydration and a blood transfusion when a blood test shows a low blood cell count. Ava puts the wedding idea on hold as she focuses on just making it to Christmas time. Spring comes, and the latest scan reveals that her cancer has spread despite the treatment, so Ava decides enough is enough. She refuses to do any more treatments and goes out the hospital door for the last time. She is determined to ever reenter willingly.
Amanda comes for a visit in between tours and stays with Kate and Ava. The night before they all got drunk enough that Ava brought up the wedding idea again. She tried to explain it to her mom until she brings up that there is no groom. However, when she explains it to Kate and Amanda the following morning, they understand that she wants to have the wedding as a goodbye instead of a funeral. Kate and Amanda understand and jump on the idea immediately since it is clear that it will make Ava happy. Once they finally convince her mom, the three of them go over to Ava's parents' house to start planning. Kate has already decided to be in charge of the budget and has made folders to divide up the tasks necessary. As she looks at the folders, Ava realizes that there is a lot involved in planning her farewell to the world.
The following morning Ava is woken up by Amanda who shows her a Facebook page that Amanda created. Ava tries to say that they can't take charity from all these people who have commented offers of money and services for the wedding. Amanda wears her down into accepting wedding goods and services when she makes Ava look at a few of the comments. Ava doesn't want to take any money.
Ava is standing on the back porch watching the sun rise after another night of almost no sleep. Ava is trying to mentally prepare herself for the magazine interview she has just a few hours that her mom, Kate and Amanda talked her into. Kate and Amanda join her just after the sun comes up, and remind her that the article will raise awareness about cancer as well as talk about her. Ava takes a shower and then lets the stylists, Kelly and Sophie, work their magic. Once they are done and show her how beautiful she looks, Ava has to step outside for air. She ends up walking down to the water where she hikes up the dress Sophie puts her in, and walks on the edge of the water lapping the beach. She hears a clicking noise, and sees a man standing on the dune she just walked down taking pictures of her. He tells her that his name is James and he is the magazine photographer for the day. Once Ava gets a better look at him, and finds that he is handsome.
Ava flirts with James a little bit before they both hear the journalist, Nadia, calling for her. Nadia was interviewing Kate, Amanda, and her mom while Ava stepped out. James walks back with Ava and even stops when she has to stop to catch her breath. Even though he is unsure of what to say to her, he waits with her. Ava tells him that she understand why he feels that way because she has come across it a lot with her own family and friends. They continue back to the house with James walking behind her to make sure that she doesn't stumble and fall.
It's been two weeks since the magazine article, and Ava has gone viral on the internet. Which means that there are even more comments on the Facebook page. Her mom, Kate and Amanda tried to talk Ava into doing more interviews leading up to the big day, but it just makes Ava say to cancel the whole thing. Ava decides to end the conversation by saying she needs to take a nap. They leave her be, and she wakes up hours later realizing she slept the whole afternoon. She gets up and goes out on the back porch to see every single person that she has considered family. Her mom tells her that they decided to do this as a way to cheer her up slightly. While they are all sitting around, Ava's dad convinces her to do the additional interviews with Nadia as a way to show people she's living her last days the way that she wants to. He even convinces her to write the advice columns that the magazine editor requested.
Ava struggles to write her first advice column. She even calls her mom who tells her to write about what she wished she knew before being diagnosed the first time. So, Ava writes about how each person needs to be their own advocate when it comes to their health. She says that doctors are humans as well, but no one knows someone's body better than the person seeking medical help. Ava makes it clear that seeking more than one opinion is never a bad thing no matter how upset the doctor gets. Your health and your body should always be your first priority.
Kate and Ava's mom are taking Ava to check out a place called Marmalade Farms that reached out as a possible wedding venue. They are joined by Nadia, Sophie, Kelly, and James who pull up in separate cars. The whole group is greeted by one of the owners named Ruby who shows them where Ava can get changed for the photo shoot. She tells them about the barn that is used for weddings. Once Ava is all made up and dressed in a wedding gown, her and James go to the meadow by the beginning of the driveway. Ruby shows everyone else around the property while telling the story of how the farm got started. James drives Ava up to the spot before they walk a short distance to the place he saw earlier.
During the short walk, Ava and James ask each other a few questions. Hers consist of has he been in love and when did he realize he wanted to be a photographer. His are simply why she is having the wedding and why involve the magazine. They both answer each other honestly, and this makes Ava like him even more. While listening to his instructions about posing, Ava has to remind herself that he is just being professional. When they reach the last few pictures, James has her lay in a spot filled with flowers where she can hear the river flowing below them. Once he finally gets what he considers the perfect shoot as the sun is setting, Ava has him turn his back to her so that she can take off the dress to go swimming without his eyes on her.
Once James realizes that she has climbed down to the water, he stands there looking at her swimming. He has a quick debate about getting in before he has her turn around to give him the same amount of privacy. Once James is in the water with her, they both swim a little ways down the river and watch the sun set some more. Before it gets completely dark, James convinces her that they needed to head back before her mom sends out a search party for them. Back on the shore, James carries Ava back up the hill to their clothes when he realizes that she is physically exhausted. A few days later James emails Ava a few "sneak peek" photos of her in the wedding dress. Once she looks at how beautiful she is in them, she forwards the email to her friends and family. She sits there happy as she thinks about these photos will be around forever.
The next article and photo shoot for Nadia is at Lake Tarawera which means that they have to stay in a hotel overnight. At first it is just Ava, Sophie, Kelly, and Nadia there, but James shows up with the news that he is the photographer again. Nadia seems surprised to see him, but is professional enough to just accept it. They all meet for drinks on the lawn at six o'clock before dinner. Sophie and Kelly are very clearly taking advantage of the business expense account when Ava makes it downstairs. Nadia is busying talking to a gray haired man when Ava walks over to where James is standing. Ava finds him standing at the edge of the lawn where he can see the water below.
They all sit down for a tiny portioned, twelve course meal with Jame sitting next to Ava. They have a few laughs together and talk enough to make her daydream about James. However she is pulled back into the reality that she has loss potential for anything when the waitress openly flirts with James. Realizing that she is living in a daydream, Ava decides to get up from the table talking about going up to her room early. James tries to offer to walk with her, but she walks away before he can get out of his seat. In the lobby, Ava decides to head back out on the lawn instead of going up the stairs to her room. It is pretty much dark out there, so she doesn't see the lawn chess set that she trips on. She messes with it for a bit before she gets bored. She spots four full cushioned lawn lounges near the edge of the light, and decides to lay down on one. She ends up falling asleep while looking at the stars.
She is only asleep for what feels like five minutes when she is woken up by a flashlight in her eyes. It is James who has apparently been looking for her. He admits that he got worried about her enough to have a worker open her hotel room door. When he saw she wasn't there, he started looking around outside for her. She tells him that she is fine and to turn off the flashlight. He does and lays down on the lawn lounge next to her. They are looking at the stars when she points out a group of stars they both recognize. This is when he tells her the story about drunkenly going to get the stars tattooed but it ended up getting changed to Homer Simpson once he was in the tattoo chair.
A few weeks have passed as well as a few more venues being checked out for three more articles. Ava has finally picked a Summer date for her wedding. However she does break the news to Nadia that it will be held on the beach at Kate's house. Nadia tries to say that there won't be enough room for everyone. Ava also breaks the news that the only ones invited are her friends, family, and the team Nadia needs to write the article. This is not a public affair. Later that night Ava is laying on the porch swing that Kate bought her as a late birthday present when she gets a text from James. He is asking her to join him for dinner the following night. Ava says yes.
James takes Ava to the fish and chips takeaway place that is part of the surf club off the beach. They share food while getting to know each other a little better. After eating James admits that he is afraid to hurt Ava if they decide to pursue something together. She calms him down even though she knows that any relationship between the two of them will hurt him more. Her back starts to hurt as the sun starts setting, so they walk back to his car. Before they make it to the car, James asks her to join him for an overnight trip that weekend. She says yes even though she's a little disappointed at his statement that he will book two rooms since he is a gentleman.
Ava is packing her bag for her trip with James while Amanda and Kate talk to her. Kate is telling her not to go because they will both just get hurt as it gets closer to her death. Amanda tells her to go for it because it is obviously what Ava wants. Ava acknowledges both of them, but makes it clear that James makes her feel something she hasn't felt for a very long time. In the end Kate and Amanda agree to let Ava do things her way just as James knocks on the front door. James asks her one more time if she wants to go, and she says yes.
After more than an hour of driving, James pulls up in a place where a helicopter is waiting for them. Ava waits for him to confirm all the details in the office while she debates if she really wants to go with him for the weekend. When he comes out, he gives her one more time to chicken out but she doesn't. They take off and fly for about 25 minutes to a hidden treehouse resort. Ava takes in the beautiful place while they are shown around by a woman named Mary. James admits that he has been here before for a magazine story. Mary shows them to her room first which has Ava speechless. James shows her the deck bathtub, which she starts to fill up immediately, before everyone leaves the room. As he leaves, James tells her that he will see her for dinner at six p.m. Before he can close the door, Ava asks him why they are there. He simply replies that everything will be revealed soon.
James knocks on Ava's door at exactly six and they head down to the restaurant. Ava thinks it is more of a dining hall, but doesn't say so outloud. They start out sitting on opposite sides of a long table, but James quickly moves his chair closer to her. They are waiting for their first course when Ava tries to offer to pay for the trip, but James tells her no, because he wanted to do this for her. Ava has to step out on the deck for a moment because of the blush she has forming on her face. James follows her a moment later and tells her about how his mom died from cancer when he was twelve. James is about to kiss Ava when the waiter interrupts them with the announcement that food is ready.
What is the surprise that James has in store for Ava? Will something further develop between them? Will she really have a wedding party as her goodbye to the world? Will she live long enough for it to happen?
Alright y'all, I am sure I could say a little more, but what fun would that be? Now like I said in the beginning, this book will have you on an emotional roller coaster. Tammy Robinson knows how to pull at your heart strings as well as hook you in immediately! You will laugh, tear up, smile, and ugly cry by the time you get to the ending. The ending is perfect, because of the way the story goes. I have to say thank you to Forever Pub for sending it to me, because I absolutely loved it. If you want to add this beauty to your personal library, head over to my page:
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