After the End by Clare Mackintosh: A Great Book Club Pick

After the End by Clare MackintoshAfter the End by Clare Mackintosh
Fiction – Literary

Released June 25, 2019
400 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Putnam)


After the End is a riveting, but emotionally tough book to read in the vein of Jodi Picoult and would make an excellent book club selection.

Plot Summary

When Max and Pip’s toddler son is diagnosed with cancer and they can’t agree on the best course of treatment, their marriage and entire lives face unimaginable challenges.

Why I Read It

This book was not on my radar at all (Clare Mackintosh has previously written mysteries / thrillers), but Susie at Novel Visits loved it and told me I would too.

Major Themes

Terminal illness, caregiving, end of life decisions, marriage, grief, major life crossroads, the media

What I Loved

  • This novel is inspired by an experience Mackintosh had with her own son…hence the fact that this book is such a departure from her previous work (mysteries / thrillers). I cannot imagine what she went through to write this. She shares a bit about it in the Author’s Note at the end of the book…do not skip it.
  • As you can imagine, this is a hard book to read and won’t be for everyone (probably not for anxious parents). But, I am a parent to young children (although not a super anxious one) and I’m glad I read it.
  • The decision at the center of the story is reminiscent of Jodi Picoult novels. It’s a situation that you hope to never, ever find yourself in and there is no good solution. And, the story explores the ripple effects of multiple paths following the decision.
  • The story is incredibly immersive. You won’t want to put it down, but not in a page-turning thriller kind of way.
  • It’s a story about grief and the different ways people handle grief….especially within a marriage. It explores the question of how much human beings and a marriage can take before they break.
  • The novel changes structure in the second half…and, what I thought would be the end point of the novel is only the halfway point. I liked this…Mackintosh went deep into the emotional consequences of Max’s and Pip’s experience in the second half of the book. That being said, the second half takes a bit of concentration to keep track of everything…you’ll see what I mean when you get there!
  • After the End would make for great book club discussion!

What I Didn’t Like

  • The emotional flips between Pip’s and Max’s feelings for each other were a bit abrupt. I wish there had been more of an emotional journey to get from Point A to Point B.
  • If you need a concrete ending (I don’t need one), this is not the book for you.

A Defining Quote

Sometimes you only know for certain if you’ve made the right decision once you’ve made it. Either it slides smoothly into place as though it were always meant to be there, or it sits, spiky and misshapen, in the corners of your mind. This isn’t right – you’ve made the wrong choice.

Good for People Who Like…

Books that make you think, emotionally tough stories, unique structure, medical stories.

Other Books You May Like

Another family medical tragedy involving tough choices:
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

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After the End by Clare Macintosh


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  1. I’m not a big fan of Picoult – I feel like her writing is manipulative – so I’m on the fence about this one.

    Posted 7.18.19 Reply
  2. I’m going to suggest this one to my book club. Thank you!

    Posted 7.18.19 Reply
  3. Amanda wrote:

    I love this review format!

    Posted 7.18.19 Reply
  4. Sandra wrote:

    I just finished this last night and really enjoyed it. I loved the fact that the ending wasn’t clear cut. I liked – and thought it was true – how the big picture things stayed the same (grief, guilt, resentment, renewed happiness but different than before) – and the rest was details. I found. The further I read the harder it was to keep things straight – and the less it mattered.

    Posted 7.18.19 Reply
  5. I’m so glad you liked this one, Sarah. I was pretty confident you would and you’re right, it is an excellent books for book clubs. So much to talk about!

    Posted 7.18.19 Reply
  6. Tina wrote:

    My hold just came in for this- happy to see that you enjoyed it!

    Posted 7.22.19 Reply
  7. Sally Valente wrote:

    I would definitely read it. It’s true that sometimes Picoult’s books are formulaic and I pick and choose.
    But this sounds very interesting and I fall into that category of readers which you mentioned. As a Hospice volunteer I’ve seen the panorama of coping with “letting go” .
    Thanks for the recommendation.

    Posted 7.23.19 Reply

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