Saturday, June 30, 2007

Love Life: The most honest love story you'll ever read

Dan and Carmen are hip, healthy and wealthy. They're young, have their own successful business, and are the proud parents of gorgeous one-year-old Luna. They have no shortage of money or friends. They live in the cool, edgy, 'media' life in Amsterdam. Until that is, Carmen is diagnosed with cancer. Their lives change from a round of parties, bars and designer clothes to the surreal world of doctors, hospitals and treatments. While Carmen optimistically endures chemotherapy and radiation, Dan, the perfect supportive partner in the daylight hours, plunges himself guiltily into the hedonistic nightlife and women of Amsterdam. And it's Carmen who eventually has to make the most difficult choice of their lives... - Synopsis from the inside-front cover of the novel.

Love Life by Ray Kluun (full name: Raymond van de Klundert) is translated from the Dutch by Shaun Whiteside. In 2001 he lost his 36-year old wife to cancer. He took his then 3-year old daughter Eva to Australia and wrote Love Life. He also wrote The Widower, a sequel to Love Life which tells of his journey through Australia with his daughter in a camper van as they deal with their loss.

The novel unveils the story of Dan and Carmen in three parts. Part One talks about Dan and Carmen, Part Two introduces Rose into the life of Dan, and Part Three made me sob buckets when Carmen made a very difficult decision. She is indeed a very strong woman.

Carmen knows fully well, even before they got married, that Dan is a monophobic (monophobia: morbid fear of a sexually monogamous life, leading to a compulsive need for infidelity). But Dan was bowled over by Carmen and they got hitched. Carmen is THE perfect partner and wife for him. From my reading of the book, I know that Carmen is the only woman Dan can call his wife and he loves her very much. Dan may not even realize that he loves her so, because half the time, he feels guilty from his act of ongoing infidelity. When Carmen goes for her treatments, Dan is always there with her, holding her, comforting her. He doesn't want to be there, but he's there nonetheless. He went through the ordeal together with his wife. When the partners of other cancer patients in the hospital walk out on them, he stood by Carmen all the way.

Dan still goes out partying with his friends and lives a hedonistic lifestyle. Then he met Rose and started an affair. As much as I don't like this to happen, I can see that Rose offers the kind of solace that Dan desperately needs. They email each other a lot, text each other with their updates.

Carmen is truly an unselfish woman. She gives Dan her blessing to find a new wife and for Luna, a new mommy. She even prepares her daughter to face her imminent departure and writes a journal for her so that she can still get to know her mommy even when she is no longer there.

It is as honest and real as it can get. Battling cancer is no joke. I'm deeply moved and I can't wait to read the sequel.