When Joey, Pearly Laurel's husband of thirty-five years, dies suddenly from a stroke, she feels like throwing in the towel as well. Most of her life has revolved around her love and adoration for Joey, and now she is like a boat adrift without a place to land. Pearly can't even begin to deal with her grief, so she goes to live in their family cabin, near her two older cousins, Peta and Cheeta. She discovers a list Joey had been keeping, entitled, "While I Live, I Want to..." The list has items such as: 1. Go whale watching in Alaska 2. Spend a winter on a mountain 3. Get a tattoo.
Pearly decides that she will make it her last hurrah to complete all of the items on Joey's list, plus a few of her own. After she finishes, she will join Joey in death. The adventures that follow this decision take her places and introduce her to people that she never imagined possible. Along the way, she also comes face-to-face with Joey's God, who has some things to teach Pearly, too. As she moves through the grief and into the true blessings of life, will she follow through with her suicide plans?
Lisa Samson writes with a serene beauty that doesn't waste words. The Living End seems like it is about death and dealing with grief, but it is actually about living life and taking risks with the heart. Pearly is a character who most readers will relate to in some way. She has made many sacrifices in her life for her husband and their marriage, often at the expense of her own self-fulfillment. I enjoyed reading about the "to-do" items, and it made me think of things I would like to complete in my lifetime.
There is a strong Christian message throughout, but it's not preachy. Pearly has been resistant to her husband's faith since they met, and readers will delight in her gentle discovery of faith. Joey kept a journal throughout his life, and Pearly learns a great deal by reading his writings. He becomes more transparent to her in death than he ever was in life. There isn't a huge "A-ha!" moment where she suddenly sees the light; it's very subtle and believable. The secondary characters all have unique personalities and add extra dimension to the story, as well as contributing to Pearly's growth.
Lisa Samson's contemplative writing style engrosses the reader from the first page and doesn't let go until the last paragraph. There are a few parts that seem to drag on a bit long, although it's difficult to truly understand someone else's grief. So what appears to be dwelling in depression to me might even seem quick to others. Readers should take time to ponder the many truths presented and decide how to apply them to their own lives.