"It was a bright April day and forty-year-old Mia ‘Rabbit’ Hayes, beloved daughter of Molly and Jack, sister of Grace and Davey, mother of twelve-year-old Juliet, best friend to Marjorie Shaw and the one true love of Johnny Faye’s life, was on her way to a hospice to die."
I have put a spoiler tag on this short piece but really, the fact the Rabbit Hayes is going to die is the underlying premise of this book. There are no surprises about this, the quote above appears on page 1. (Be warned, tho, that the quotations may contain swearing.)
Nevertheless, this book is different from other books with a similar premise.
Whilst reading this I was strongly reminded of Penelope Lively's Moon Tiger in which the MC is dying from cancer and recollects her life whilst waning in and out of consciousness and morphine-induced hallucinations.
Rabbit Hayes also remembers her own story but this in not the main story. Unlike Lively's main character, Rabbit Hayes has not lived a remarkable life. Rabbit is an everyday woman. What the book is driven by instead are the reactions of her nearest and dearest to the inevitable event of Rabbit's death. Each of them going through different stages of grief and realisation.
"When she was a teenager she’d bought a red clay Buddha in a charity shop, and when her mother asked her why she wanted it, she told her she preferred to look at a fat god laughing rather than a skinny one dying. Rabbit never needed to believe in any god to marvel at the world, to feel joy, hope, love and contentment. Rabbit lived in the moment. She didn’t know what came next, nor did she care. It was likely that death meant a full stop and that didn’t scare her. In fact, when she thought about it, the notion of eternity was far more worrying."
The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes was not an easy read as it expressly describes living with cancer and also MS. However, the writing style was refreshingly light and, well, just - Irish. It reminded me a lot of Mrs Browns Boys. If you haven't seen the show, check them out.
On the same note of combining comedy and serious context, The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes could come across as a bit cheesy and over-evocative - but never for long.
"Her mother’s curses upset many, but not her. She found them entertaining, familiar and comforting. Ma was kind, generous, fun, playful, wise, strong and formidable. She’d take a bullet to protect an innocent, and nobody, not the tallest, strongest or bravest, messed with Molly Hayes. She didn’t suffer fools gladly and she didn’t give a toss about pleasing people. You either liked Molly Hayes or you fucked off."