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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
The Hours In Between by Olivia Barry is a contemporary women's novel that follows a woman named Liz Taite who embarks on a transformational journey in response to a life-altering diagnosis. Liz receives the news that she has leukemia; it is aggressive and terminal. Instead of experimental treatment or palliative care, she decides to leave her husband Pete and her career in New York behind and head to California. With half a year left, she wants to make every moment count. She chooses to take the train west and becomes fast friends with a realtor in Southern California who finds her a home to rent. She explores, makes her last Christmas dinner for her adult children, and meets Sam, with whom she very quickly falls in love. She has her best days and a day she describes as the worst of her life, she hosts a dinner party for friends, writes goodbye letters and buys goodbye gifts, and has a movie marathon, among many other moments remembered and shared. The days tick by and each is written as a journal entry recalling its events, transitioning from acceptance and an ultimate elation at life to the ultimate deterioration of her physical body, still trying ever so hard—and it is often hard—to embrace each second she is breathing.
The Hours In Between offers an intimate look at the final few weeks of a person's life in the first person. Olivia Barry does this in glimpses from Liz in the form of a few paragraphs that summarize the thoughts, feelings, and activities experienced. As a literary device, I tend not to be thrilled by books written entirely in diary entries but in this case, where Liz has an extremely limited amount of time, I did feel that it was well executed. There is one major area that I felt diminished Liz's likeability. A person dying certainly has license to be selfish, but in not telling Sam she has cancer until halfway through the book she forcefully took away his agency, his choice to make his own life decisions on what he could or would be willing to withstand. Her kids and philandering husband do not know either which, interestingly, did not actually bother me. Setting that aside, I understood the nightmares and enjoyed the dream sequences Liz describes and, as someone who believes that we do have the power of premonition as we begin the journey of crossing over, they added an entirely authentic layer to her story. Overall, this is a thoughtfully done character-driven arc that illuminates hope in the face of earthly release.