A BEST BOOK OF 2020
CBC – The Best Canadian Nonfiction of 2020
The Globe and Mail’s Globe 100: Our Favourite Books of 2020
Chatelaine’s 10 Best Books of 2020
The Walrus’s Favourite Books of 2020
For readers of Paul Kalanithi's When Breath Becomes Air and Will Schwalbe, the moving, inspiring story of a young husband and father who, when diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of thirty-three, sets out to build a legacy for his infant son.
i can't make you feel what it's like to be a young, dumb, naïve thirty-year-old sitting in the back of a walk-in clinic waiting to be handed what is essentially a death sentence any more than i can show you what it feels like to have a husband or father or child who's dying and knowing there is nothing you can do to stop it. i can only describe to you how i feel today. angry. at peace. scared. grateful. a giant, spiky, flowering heart-shaped bouquet of contradictions.
Layton Reid was a globe-trotting, risk-taking, sunshine-addicted bachelor--then came a melanoma diagnosis. Cancer startled him out of his arrested development--he returned home to Halifax to work as a wedding photographer--and remission launched him into a new, passionate life as a husband and father-to-be. When the melanoma returned, now at Stage IV, Layton and his family put all their stock into a punishing alternative therapy, hoping for a cure. This Is Not the End of Me recounts Layton's three-year journey as he tried desperately to stay alive for his young son, Finn, and then found purpose in preparing Finn for a world without him.
With incredible intimacy, grit, and empathy, reporter Dakshana Bascaramurty casts an unsentimental eye on who her good friend was: his effervescence, his twisted wit, his anger, his vulnerability. Interweaving Layton's own reflections--his diaries written for Finn, his letters to his wife, Candace, and his public journal--she paints a keenly observed portrait of Layton's remarkable evolution. In detailing the ugly, surprising, and occasionally funny ways in which Layton and his family faced his mortality, the book offers an unflinching look at how a person dies, and how we might build a legacy in our information-saturated age.
Powerful and unvarnished, This is Not the End of Me is about someone who didn't get a very happy ending, but learned to squeeze as much life as possible from his final days.
About the author
Dakshana Bascaramurty is a reporter for the Globe and Mail, who has won a National Newspaper Award and a Digital Publishing Award for her writing. Her work has appeared in the National Post, the Ottawa Citizen, and on CBC. This is her first book.
“This Is Not the End of Me is a profoundly moving book about living wrapped in a book about dying. An immersive, beautifully detailed portrait of a young family learning to cope with illness, it will resonate long after the final page is read.” —Elizabeth Renzetti, author of Shrewed
“How do you continue living even as you prepare for death? In the case of Layton Reid, who died at 37, a terminal cancer diagnosis led him to try to condense decades of love, marriage and fatherhood into a mere handful of years. Intimate and unvarnished, Dakshana Bascaramurty’s This Is Not the End of Me faithfully chronicles her friend’s reckoning with his mortality and legacy. Bearing witness to the journey of Layton, his wife, Candace, and the couple’s families, Bascaramurty tenderly captures moments of compassion and grace, as well as denial, anger and sorrow. This is a book about the profound, fragile and beautiful condition of being human.” —Rachel Giese, author of Boys: What It Means to Become a Man, winner of the Writers’ Trust of Canada Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing
“Cancer patients are often portrayed as heroes and survivors, as caricatures. Dakshana Bascaramurty provides an intimate glimpse of the more common, not-always-rosy reality: The loneliness, fear, desperation, grieving and loss experienced by cancer patients and their families. This Is Not the End of Me is not always an easy read but a necessary one—an enlightening exploration of coming to terms with mortality.” —André Picard, health columnist, The Globe and Mail, author of Matters of Life and Death
“Who would have predicted that a life apparently doomed by cancer held so much future richness? Somehow, Dakshana Bascaramurty did. Her panoptic reporting, her steady attention to every detail in multiple lives, her calm, clear sentences, and most of all her astonishing patience over the years it took for Layton Reid’s story to unfold, have created a book no one will forget.” —Ian Brown, author of Sixty
“Dakshana Bascaramurty has written a book as captivating in its frankness as the delightfully no-BS man at its core. It touches your heart. It makes you grapple with essential questions about how we die and live. And, like Layton Reid, it’s much funnier than you’d expect under the circumstances.” —Daniel Dale, CNN
“With tremendous compassion and insight, Dakshana Bascaramurty tells the story of Layton Reid and his extraordinary approach to life after a terminal cancer diagnosis. This is an honest, intimate story about death and dying that is devastating, yes—but also filled with humour, love, and bursting with life. Reid’s story, gorgeously told by Bascaramurty, will make you rethink what it means to be a spouse, a parent, and a friend.” —Ann Hui, author of Chop Suey Nation
“This Is Not the End of Me is a beautifully rendered story of vulnerability and compassion. Dakshana Bascaramurty delicately sheds light on the complexities of mortality, while showing the value and importance of accepting our own fragility.” —Iain Reid, author of Foe
“Equal parts beautiful, heartbreaking, and inspiring, this is a book you’ll be thinking about long after you finish reading.” —Robyn Doolittle, author of Had It Coming
“An exquisite, heartbreaking exploration of life and death. Dakshana Bascaramurty expertly delves inside one family’s multifaceted being, its wrestle with fate and love and degeneration, bringing the reader along with her. I dare you to read this and not be overcome by the need to gnaw at life, the desire to design your final hours, your commemoration. A true celebration of an unremitting spirit.” —Anna Mehler Paperny, author of Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me
“This Is Not the End of Me is a book for anyone who loves fiercely, with dedication and passion and loyalty to the end. How do our stories end? What matters most is who we are with while our stories are being written. Dakshana Bascaramurty lays out, in astonishing detail, the lengths we go to for the people we love. This book is about the constant caring, raging and measuring that go into a family’s balancing act, a bid to help Layton Reid stay alive longer with his loving family, tensions and all. Layton’s constant documentation and attempt to pass stories forward becomes a collaboration of sorts with the author, who lays out his tenacity in a clear-eyed story. This is Layton’s legacy and it’s a tribute to caregivers, survivors, parents and people who love. What the author has done with his story is a tribute, not just to Layton and his whole family, but to life and love itself.” —Hannah Sung, journalist
“This Is Not the End of Me is a hard read. You think you know how it ends. You do. But, also, you do not. Finding meaning, love, hope and resilience at life’s end is a cruel twist of fate. It is also, ironically, life saving. This heart-wrenching journey lays bare the fact that our lives, whenever they may come to an end, are never complete. I, for one, find a certain comfort in that.” —Mark Sakamoto, author of Forgiveness
“This Is Not the End of Me is a deeply human story about cancer, an unorthodox treatment, and a man on his last walk. But it’s so much more than that—a beautifully real and inspiring journey filled with courage and love.” —Charlotte Gill, author of Eating Dirt