Richard and Judy Review: The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes – Anna McPartlin

Richard and Judy Review: The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes – Anna McPartlin

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“McPartlin’s novel has strong echoes of Jojo Moyes’s Me Before You, which dealt with the unlikely friendship between a working-class girl and a rich young man paralysed in an accident.”

Richard’s review

The way families cope with the death of a beloved member varies enormously. In the case of the imminent departure of 40-year-old Rabbit Hayes, spending her final days in a hospice as she nears the end of her battle with breast cancer, her mother, father and siblings deal with their heartbreak in ways which are devastatingly sad but also bracingly brave and funny.

Rabbit herself never loses her anarchic Irish sense of humour (although for her the worst thing about dying is leaving behind her 12-year-old daughter).

How this situation is resolved among the siblings is both unexpected and tender – a clever and surprising solution in this clever and surprising book.

McPartlin’s novel has strong echoes of Jojo Moyes’s Me Before You, which dealt with the unlikely friendship between a working-class girl and a rich young man paralysed in an accident. Like Moyes, McPartlin has a light and subtle touch in dealing with tragedy, and both writers share a wit and humour which manages to leaven the deep sadness of their stories.

I very much liked Rabbit’s family, particularly her strong, tough, Irish ‘Mammy’, Molly, who fights like a tiger for her daughter’s life. Much of the book’s humour comes from Molly. Rabbit’s father, Jack, and siblings Grace and Davey, are very believably-drawn characters, too.

This is a touching, brave, funny novel about a family facing an imminent death. Anyone who has lost someone close will identify with it and remember how the heartbreak is so often shot through with the blessing of humour – sometimes black, but also genuinely tender, loving and uplifting.

“To add to Rabbit’s harrowing situation, she is the single mother of a 12-year-old daughter, Juliet. She is a strong little girl who has cared for her mother since she was eight and Rabbit was first diagnosed.”

Judy’s review

Rabbit has been fighting breast cancer for four years, and the book begins as she is admitted to a hospice. Therefore the reader knows right from the start that this novel is not going to have a ‘happy’ ending.

Rabbit, as Mia Hayes is affectionately known, is beyond the last chance saloon. Her cancer is terminal and this story details the last week of Rabbit’s life. She is just 40 years old.

So far, so tragic, and yet this book is written with such lightness of touch and genuine wit that it is far from depressing. In fact it’s a captivating story of unconditional love, family devotion, happy memories, and the humour with which people can cope with the bleakest days of their lives.

To add to Rabbit’s harrowing situation, she is the single mother of a 12-year-old daughter, Juliet. She is a strong little girl who has cared for her mother since she was eight and Rabbit was first diagnosed. Juliet knows her mother is ill but has still not come to terms with the fact she is dying. In fact all Rabbit’s family, in the last days of her life, are desperately hoping for a miracle. Her mother, Molly, absolutely refuses to believe her daughter is about to die.

OK, this sounds bleak – but it truly isn’t. Molly, the archetypal Irish Catholic matriarch, is a source not just of strength but of great humour. Rabbit herself is tough and without self-pity. There are many happy and hilarious moments in this novel. Yes, you’ll need a hanky – but you will also laugh and smile at this poignant, life-affirming story.

Press reviews

Here are a selection of the reviews for The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes

“What a beautiful book. I cried and smiled my way through”

Jane Green

“Impossible to put down”

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“Grabbing you by the throat and the funny-bone straight from the get go…a mash-up of Roddy Doyle and Jojo Moyes”

Dublin Herald

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