Frankly, her life was tough enough already. Two tricky teenagers, her mother’s constant complaints, friends who aren’t up to the job and a career which has been spiralling downwards since she won ‘Sunseeker Tour Rep of the Season’ twenty years ago.
And now this: a cheating husband and a death sentence.
Enough is enough. Jenny vows to keep both catastrophes a secret. She takes her life – and death – into her own hands and decides to live as she did when she was happiest… in 1996. She plans a spectacular 1990’s themed party in place of a wake that she herself will attend. But will she be able to keep her secrets for long enough to have the party of a lifetime?
Review: I’ve never picked up a Tracy Bloom book before, simply because I don’t really read this genre much anymore. And that’s cool, we all have our different tastes but whilst I tend to opt for a disturbing Thriller or a gory Horror, I do like to dip my toes in something different every once in a while. Then when I saw Bookouture announce that The Last Laugh was on NetGalley, it struck me as something I had to read. I loved the cover (I mean, who wouldn’t love that cover?) and it sounded like something I’d hopefully enjoy so off I went to request it. So thank you to Bookouture for accepting me for a copy of this!
The Last Laugh is a simple premise: The main character, Jenny, a mum of two teenagers and a workaholic husband finds out she has cancer. And it’s terminal. On the same day, she finds her husband shagging another woman in his office. So you know, the phrase ‘when it rains it pours’ really does apply to poor Jenny. Instead of telling her husband about her illness or confronting him about his affair, she sets to work with the help of an elderly lady in the care home she works at – Maureen – and an old friend from her past to put on the best, most vibrant party of all.
After being taken to a funeral by Maureen, it got her thinking about her own life and ultimately, the end of it. So, wanting to recapture the fun of her youth that she misses so dearly, bring her family and friends back together again and have the best send off she could hope for – she organises a 1996 themed party with bouncy castles, sumo suits and wonderful food before time starts running out and before she tells her family her life altering news.
Despite this being a book about someone with cancer, it wasn’t a book about someone with cancer. For the majority of the book, the fact that the main character has this awful, terminal illness completely washes over you. It’s a book very much about love, friendship, reminiscing about good times and making new, wonderful memories. There are some awfully poignant paragraphs and messages scattered about this book, some of which definitely got me thinking quite hard. Ultimately, what I came away from this book with, was how important it is to try and have fun. To make memories and be silly. It made me want to dig out my old photo albums and have a good old cry, really.
Jenny herself was a wonderful character – at first, within the first chapter or so, she definitely came across as a bit of a cow but knowing she’s about to go into the hospital to find out her devastating news, you can definitely let her off. Despite everything that happens to her – including finding her husband shagging a blonde work colleague in his office – she is still an incredibly strong, capable and independent women. Which really is a testament to all women who, most of which, battle on vicariously through the hard times in their life.
I loved all the little elements of her life running through the main story. Her stroppy teenage daughter, a desperately shy and anxious son who’s learning to come into his own, a missing dog, an unsympathetic mum, an absent brother – it was all so… real. I absolutely loved Maureen – her friend from the care home. I always tend to love a no-nonsense, say it how it is, elderly woman in a book. They’re so much fun and a early scene where Jenny tells Maureen she has cancer and Maureen ends up on the floor had me really laughing, which I’m not sure was the intention but Tracy did a great job at injecting some humor all the way through a book which could have potentially been very dark.
The only slight niggle I had was the ending – I was a bit stumped when I turned the last page and realised there wasn’t any more. I felt the ending was a little abrupt and unfinished. I wanted to know what happened to Jenny going forwards. I wanted to know about her funeral and how her family was coping. But that might just be me, being morbid. And I suppose it would have made the book too long had all that been added in. Saying that, I kinda like that Tracy has essentially left it up to us to decide what happens next.
I never wanted this book to end which is incredibly ironic given the entire book is about the main characters life coming to an end. It’s heart-breakingly poetic really. A delightful, yet emotional book which will make you laugh, cry and think about your life in ways that maybe you hadn’t done before. It reminds you to cherish the moment and cherish those with you in that moment as well.
Spoiler alert: I didn’t wanna mention this part among my review in case someone didn’t want to know this bit of information but I also wanted to add that the main character has Cervical Cancer (which has spread) so I really, desperately hope this will encourage some readers to book their smear tests, if they’re due for one.