The Very Last List of Vivian Walker

Megan Albany, Lisa Maza

The Very Last List of Vivian Walker
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The Very Last List of Vivian Walker

Megan Albany, Lisa Maza

Now that I’ve got cancer, I know I should be letting go and just being in the moment with my child but, seriously, what mother has got time to spend with their kids?

Vivian Walker’s life is exceptionally ordinary. Average husband, check. Darling son, check. Refrigerator in a state of permanent disarray, check. Everything is thoroughly and frustratingly routine, even being terminally ill.

After receiving her diagnosis, Viv’s family won’t let her lift a finger … for at least a week. But once the novelty wears off, she’s lucky to get a cup of tea for her trouble. In preparation for D-day, self-professed control freak Viv has made a list of essential things to do, such as decluttering the playroom and preparing her taxes. She doesn’t expect to become spiritually enlightened or have any outlandish last-minute successes. All she wants is to finish her unfinished business.

As her final days unfold, Viv realises her life has become a love letter to the mundane but she still manages to keep her wicked sense of humour and cynical take on life unapologetically intact. The Very Last List of Vivian Walker will make you ugly cry, snort tea out your nose with laughter and want to embrace humanity in all its selfishness, beauty and awkwardness.

‘This novel has humour and pathos in spades - I laughed and cried’ - Cindy MacDonald, The Saturday Paper


I cried reading this debut novel. I also laughed and despaired. Vivian Walker’s life is exceptionally ordinary. She is married, has a son and has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. She is dying and before she goes, she is desperate to finish all those tasks around the home that she has wanted to complete. Now seems the time.

I would like to imagine that if given a similar diagnosis, I would take the time to reflect and create, but I am also sure that the physicality of life would hit me in the same manner it’s portrayed here. The fridge and playroom need sorting and cleaning. The list of practical concerns become as important as ensuring a successful date night with her husband. Vivian Walker is a control freak, and a list of tasks is the only power she has left. It is for this reason that I was filled with despair. Will the responsibility of a tidy home ever really change for women? Even if they are dying?

Told in an impassive manner, and in the first person, this book takes us all the way to the end of Vivian’s life. Vivian is thankfully not saccharine, but pragmatic, and very tired. This is not a novel full of fancy considerations, but a heartfelt examination of how to say goodbye. It’s the type of novel that you’ll read quickly and that will compel you to find your family and hold them tight, once you’ve composed yourself. Read it and you’ll decide then and there, to never be concerned about the pile of washing in the corner.

Chris Gordon is the programming and events manager at Readings.

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