Early Departures by justin a. reynolds
*I received a free review copy in exchange for an honest review of this book.
Early Departures balances grief, loss, and celebration to tell a story about the tenuous nature of life and the suddenness of death. The prose has a drifting or wavering quality early on, helping build a sense of fragility which perfectly fits the text.
Besides the obvious themes of life and death, there's a lot of grappling with discomfort and truth. When is is honesty the best policy? How much does someone really need to know something when it's bad news they can't change? This book doesn’t pretend to have the right answer, it just tells one very moving version of what a small group of people try when they get a second chance to say goodbye. It's often sad but has some very happy moments, telling and showing ways that the characters choose to celebrate life while they can.
Jamal is a fantastic MC, he feels really earnest even when the book thinks he might not be doing the right thing in his personal life, and the whole effect works really well. This feels like the kind of book I’ll come back to when I need it. That doesn’t happen to be right now for me, but it offers a certain kind of catharsis that I appreciate.
CW for ableist language (brief), toxic relationship, grief, vomit, pregnancy, drowning, car accident, parental death, major character death, death.