When we started Totallybooked in July 2012 there was one book that was continually recommended to us.
We delayed reading it for so long because the subject matter was just too close to our hearts and we knew reading it would break our hearts.
That book was:
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by JOHN GREEN
Below are our thoughts and what this beautifully sad book meant to us.
A personal story (originally posted August 2012)
Cancer is too raw for me. I lost my brother to cancer in December 2011 and have a young friend, Mairead who is fighting cancer as we speak. I just felt the subject matter in this book was something I couldn’t deal with at this time.
However, I received a lot of private messages from readers telling me their stories and how they had read this book and found it inspiring. Their words and stories really resonated with me. After much soul searching it was decided that this book might actually be a good way for me to not only deal with my grief but also help me to help my friend Mairead with her cancer fight.
Then it hit me. What the hell was my problem? At the end of the day I only had to read a book and possibly cry my heart out for a few days, whereas my beautiful, courageous friend (and many like her) had to actually deal with the reality of living with cancer on a daily basis. I decided it was time to man up and read it.
Where to start? John Green’s writing is nothing short of phenomenal. I am still reeling today from how amazingly talented this author is. This book was the most emotional, wonderful, heartbreaking, inspiring and beautifully sad books I’ve ever read. Reading The Fault In Our Stars is more an experience than a mere read. To say I connected with these characters is an understatement. I KNEW these characters. They became my friends and when they hurt, I hurt. Deep in my heart and my soul, oh boy, I hurt. I sobbed throughout the book, and at one point, through lack of breath thought I would be sick. That’s how much this book got to me. Yes, this book did rip out my heart, but I got so much out of it as well.
I’m not going to talk about the book as such because Gitte has already reviewed it for Totallybooked, but what I would like to do is tell you a bit about the woman behind the reason I finally succumbed to reading this story.
My friend Mairead is a rare gem in life. She is one of those beautiful souls that if you are lucky enough to cross paths with in your lifetime, you know you have been truly blessed.
I’ve known her for 3 years. Whenever I see her, which is regularly, she has always a smile on her face. No exception. When Mairead says “hello my lovely how are you today“. She isn’t asking you in a flippant way. She looks deep into your eyes and asks “how ARE YOU today”. She means it. She cares and she wants to know that everything is okay in your world even though everything is far from okay in hers.
Mairead was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in November 2011 at the young age of 36. We both cried buckets when she told me the news, but this wonderful selfless woman actually comforted me at the time. She was more worried about ME and how I was going to handle this. She felt awful that she had made me feel sad. That’s is Mairead all over. She always puts others before herself.
She bravely fought through the most horrible, rigorous treatment, yet still that beautiful big smile of hers was there, in place, to make everyone’s day just that much brighter.
The only time I ever saw her really down was when she was losing her hair. That broke my heart because I could see it broke hers. As Mairead uses humour to deal with life’s struggles, I decided to do the same and said to her “ahhh cheer up, and just think of the money you’ll save on waxing” – we looked at each other and doubled over laughing. She felt better when she got her wig that she nicknamed “Matilda” or “Effing Matilda” as she becomes known in the heat of summer when she drives Mairead crazy LOL
In March 2012, Mairead had to have a double mastectomy. I went to see her in hospital hours after the operation and there she was, propped up in bed looking a million dollars with that trademark smile, sans Matilda, looking gorgeous! I asked her how she was feeling and she said “to be honest I’m feeling a little flat”. I started banging on about how she’ll feel better in a few days blah blah – she stopped me and said “I‘m messing with you, you fecking eejit…I meant my boobs are gone and I’m feeling flat“. I slapped her and we had a good laugh. See! That’s Mairead in a nutshell.
When she received news that she was in remission we cried with happiness! It was brilliant – she was able to travel to Ireland to see her family and she was on top of the world. We all were.
Unfortunately, that happiness was short lived. On the 13th of this month (August 2012) Mairead had to come and break the most devastating news of all to me. Not only had the cancer returned but they also found it in her stomach and lungs. My heart broke and as much as I tried to stay strong for her I couldn’t manage it and broke down. Once again, this selfless, wonderful woman comforted me!
I will see her fight this insidious disease. On her bad days, I’ll remind her how wonderful and special she is to me and everyone around her and why we need her to stay strong and beat this! I will tell her constantly why I need her in my life because without her, the brightness would go out of my world.
This beautiful little pixie inspires me daily. She’s courageous, giving, warm, and humorous and possesses the purest soul of anyone you could ever meet. A world without this amazing woman would indeed be a sad place, so I know she will beat this! She HAS to beat this!
Mairead allowed me to hell her story because – as she says,…..“if my story helps one person, then I want it told”
So, there’s my reason for “manning up” and reading this book. I think you’ll agree, a pretty inspiring reason.
My final thoughts on The Fault In Our Stars: Did I love this book? Yes! Did this book devastate me? Yes. Did it inspire me? Absolutely! Would I recommend it? In a heartbeat.
Thank you for reading and please, at some point in your day, take a minute and say a prayer for my beautiful Mairead.
Sadly, on the 5th December 2012, our beautiful Mairead lost her battle with Breast Cancer. Mairead was brave, strong and still retained that amazing sense of humor right up until the end.
This photo was taken the day before she was to enter into hospital for the last time. She was so full of life, felt and looked healthy and was so positive about her prognosis. We all were. She was feeling on top of the world that day, however, the next day hers and our world would shatter again.
The day I went to see Mairead in hospital and she had made the decision to refuse further treatment I was devastated. She shouted at me and told me not to be upset. She was ready to go. She was tired and she had fought a valiant and hard battle. She needed to find her peace. When she told me this I have to say I have never looked into the eyes of someone so brave and courageous. EVER! She was my hero. I admired her so much.
I would miss her terribly and it tore my heart open at the thought of losing her, but she she was ready and wanted to go on her terms. She had organised everything and all with one goal, that no one would be inconvenienced in having to organise anything after she passed. Selfless to the end. That was Mairead all over.
I met her family the week before she passed, and what an amazing family they were. They told me they had seen the post I did for their Mairead and that it gave them so much comfort to know she was surrounded by people who loved her and whose hearts she had touched in return.
Mairead will never be forgotten. My life, and many others, is all the more brighter for having her in it. This little lady may not have been with us for long, but let me tell you she packed more love, more goodness and more heart into one short lifetime than others merely dream about.
Shine bright my love. I miss you every day. xxxxx
A Letter to John Green
5 to the power of infinity STARS
I’ve been wanting to read The Fault in Our Stars for so long now. But I was scared. I knew you were there with this piece of writing genius, but I pretended not to see you. Quite a few readers had continuously whispered in mine and Jenny’s ear that we had to take the leap (I was game, she wasn’t). A month later you were on my kindle. That was yesterday. I thought you could stay there for a while until I got brave. Every time I looked you were there flashing your neon lights at me but I ignored you, I am sorry.
I was warned that I would need to sit in my bathtub whilst reading in order to prevent strenuous lugging of the buckets I would cry. So I did. I also got my blanket, a bottle of wine and some brown paper bags to minimise the unavoidable hyperventilating as well as my man size tissues.
I have to tell you that I did not move (much) in the hours it took me to read your book and my kindle did not leave me. I know this because I woke up with it still clutched in my right hand with a dent in my forehead where you landed when I fell asleep. The only time I put you down was when my tears made reading impossible.
You have made me think about courage, life, death and how I perceive the world. Even how the world perceives me. You very slowly made yourself a permanent home in my heart with the poignancy of the story of Hazel and Augustus, I hope you don’t mind that. You made something Tragic into something Beautiful through powerful writing. Wonderfully witty and sarcastic; truly heart-breaking and human.
I was reminded that books can indeed be entirely perfect, as yours was. You showed that illness does not define a person – truly moving. There were no stereotypes and clichés rather it was inspirational and distressing in equal measure. At times your writing had me re-reading sentences because they were so beautiful, so powerful, so down-right genius.
I want to immortalize Augustus and Hazel. They were funny, intelligent, captivating, brave, cocky and self-assured, even annoying at times. I appreciated that you didn’t dress their journey up into being something it wasn’t. You made it harsh, real and believable.
My heart aches, my chest hurts from crying and I want to believe that nothing is terminal in the strictest definition of the term.
“My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.”
“That’s the thing about pain…it demands to be felt.”
John Green you are a literary genius and ‘The fault in our stars’ is absolutely flawless.