You walk toward me on the bridge. The summer sun shines on you like a spotlight.
Cars whoosh by.
I hop off my bike. Lean it against the railing. The North Shore Mountains tower behind. I reach into my backpack for my phone. Launch the camera app and zoom in on you. Your square jaw makes you look strong – like Captain America or Thor. I take your photo. Then another.
You’re talking on your cellphone. The person on the other end must have said something funny, because all of a sudden you’re splitting a gut laughing. So loud, the man in a brown suit who just walked past turns around to see what’s so funny. You stop.
I pretend to take a picture of a tugboat pulling a barge, but instead take one of you staring into the Burrard Inlet like you’re waiting for a whale to breach. I walk closer.
You turn and look at me with dark blue eyes. Hand me your cellphone.
I think you want me to take your picture.
But all you say is, “I’m sorry.” Hoist yourself up on the railing.
What? I reach out my hand. Wait. Wait. My fingertips brush your white shirt before it puffs up like a parachute. I peer down into the water, but only see a log carried by gentle currents.
Claire was cycling home when she witnesses Will jump off the Lions Gate Bridge, but not before Will hands her his cellphone. Using this cellphone, Claire begins her own investigation into why Will chose to end his own life. This questioning leads her to meeting Will’s family, girlfriend, the counsellor at a hospice, and Kiki, a young cancer patient. As the novel unfolds, Claire gains a greater understanding of why Will took his own life as well recognition of how full her own life is. At the same time, she learns to accept the reasons why her little sister, Bella, who has Down Syndrome, needs to move out of the family home into a group home.
Last Words examines both the reasons why someone would choose to end their own life and the ramifications this choice has on family and friends. This beautiful poignant novel deals with the topic in a profound and thought-provoking manner and is never sensational.
I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy realistic fiction as well as those living with, or have friends, dealing with mental health issues. The interview with the author at the end of the book, as well as the discussion about mental health, may help readers reach out to the resources they need to deal with their own issues. Lastly, Last Words is a beautiful exploration of relationships, be they friendship or familial, and most readers should be able to see themselves in one of these relationship types.
Sarah Wethered has been a teacher-librarian at New Westminster Secondary School for 20 years, and she currently lives in New Westminster, BC. She is a 2020 Angela Thacker Memorial Award winner.