‘The Last Act Of Adam Campbell’ is the latest book by Andy Jones.
A year can go quickly. Particularly when it’s your last. Adam had a good life: a job he enjoyed, a nice house, a loving partner and a bright six-year-old daughter. Then he cheated on his partner. Then she kicked him out of their home. And then he was given approximately twelve months to live. Despite the devastating news, Adam is determined to turn his life around before it finally runs out. Help comes in the form of an ex-junky, a cantankerous train driver, a nun experiencing a crisis of faith, and a teenager intent on losing her virginity – all living on borrowed time, all desperate to feel alive before their time is up.
My first review of 2020, is of Andy’s latest book and to be honest, this book should come with a warning, a packet of tissues plus tea and chocolates to help you recover from the end of it.
The story is primarily seen through the perspective of Adam Campbell, who is coming to terms with being terminally ill and wants to spend his last days with his ex-partner and 6 year old daughter called Mabel. To help deal with the idea of dying, Adam joins a group for cancer sufferers like himself. It’s just as he’s settled into this circle of friends when the leader is tragically killed in a traffic accident. Without a leader, the group decide to continue and in doing so, come up with an idea of creating a Shakespeare play including the major deaths from the writer’s books. The idea is inspired by Laura, the youngest member of the group, who’s tired of people treating her like a delicate little flower and wants to experience relationships and sex for the first time. She finds herself turning to Tom, a man close to her age who she connects with, thinking that he’s the one, but he’s wary with being a reformed drug addict. Other members of the group include Pat, a kind nun with a dog for company, Erin, a bubbly mother who sees the best in everyone and retired men Vernon and Raymond.
The multiple characters in the story give an interesting insight into the story, as they are all at various stages of the illness that they know will claim their lives much sooner than they had ever imagined. They all have dreams of living longer, travelling and having families, this is all tragically being taken from them. As the group connects, we see the dynamics change, as they support each other and form a strong bond but as the group gets smaller, a part of them also dies as they wonder who will be next. With each sad moment, Andy thoughtfully includes a lighter moment to reset the reader’s emotions. Through the various narratives, we seen relationships challenged, reconciliations and beliefs questioned.
Adam is a great character, he’s determined to spend his last days being a fun father to Mabel and really struggles when it affects him emotionally and physically and this does make for upsetting reading as she tries to understand his illness as whilst he tries to protect her from it all. His relationship with Heather, his ex is also a difficult one as he tries to repair the relationship that he lost with her even though they never fell out of love.
From the outset, this story is a challenge to read. The subject matter being cancer and death is a difficult one and even though, Andy injects humour and warmth into the story, with relatable characters, you still come away heartbroken. The story is extremely well researched and really does go into the detail the ordeal of cancer and not only the affects the illness has on life but also the medication that is treating it. A poignant and reflective story on new relationships, and what could have been, ‘The Last Act of Adam Campbell’ is a life affirming and tender story that highlights the fragility of life and the importance of making every second count.
You can buy ‘The Last Act Of Adam Campbell’ from Amazon and will be available from good bookshops from 28 May 2020.