If Kisses Cured Cancer…
About the Book:
Matt Pearce is depressed, working an uninspiring job and lacking any prospect of dragging his life out of mediocrity. That is until he meets Joy: a cancer survivor who lives beyond the rules of normal people.
As the pair go on a series of unusual dates – from hijacking fish n chip orders, to ‘extreme people watching’ at the airport – their love for each other grows. But Joy’s past is about to catch up with her, and a hidden secret could tear the two apart forever.
If Kisses Cured Cancer is a quirky look at finding love in unlikely places. It is about the importance of connecting with those around you, enjoying every moment and not being afraid to go skinny dipping in the forest. It will have you in tears of joy, tears of sorrow and tears of laughter.
Matt Pearce is depressed, but he is not depressing, a rather important distinction to note. In fact, I think he might just be one of the loveliest men in literature that I’ve ever met on the page. If Kisses Cured Cancer is Matt’s story, and despite being in his mid-twenties, it’s very much his coming of age story. See, Matt has been drifting a bit since he finished high school, still living in his hometown even though his parents have moved on, stuck in a customer service job he loathes, feeling a bit like he’s missed the relationship boat entirely, and he’s short on mates. But he’s so kind, with such a generous spirit and a great sense of humour. One day, Matt’s job gets the better of him and being fired sparks of a chain of events that sees Matt’s life change radically in a very short amount of time. His Centrelink case manager becomes his new best friend – actually, his best friend, I am not being sarcastic here! – a former co-worker becomes another good friend, and he meets an interesting woman who agrees to go on a date with him. Despite being unemployed and without a clue on what he wants to do with the rest of his life, things begin to look up for Matt.
Enter cancer. Women who get breast cancer in their twenties do not generally have a good prognosis. So it goes without saying, based on this fact and the title of the novel, that Joy, Matt’s new girlfriend, is going to develop secondary cancer. I don’t think this really qualifies as being a spoiler, but even if it is, I can’t possibly write this review the way I want to without mentioning the cancer. Because this novel is largely about loving someone who is dying of cancer and seeing the world through their eyes. See what I mean about Matt being the loveliest man in literature? And Joy, she is simply stunning. Having stared death in the face already, she’s changed her life and is living it exactly the way she wants. And I don’t mean the usual cliché responses such as travelling the world and ticking off your bucket list. I mean she is living each day to the fullest and she’s playing by her own rules, even if they are a little unconventional at times. She’s amazing, yet still vulnerable, because despite knowing that it’s unlikely she’ll live a long life, she falls in love with Matt and opens her heart and consequently exposes her fears to him. And Matt? Well, we’ve already established that he is the loveliest man in literature.
But this is not a desperately sad novel about losing your greatest love. It’s so not that. It’s incredibly uplifting, and I know that must seem odd, given one of the characters has cancer, but so much of this novel is about embracing life. Living, really, actually living inside your life, and not just going through the motions. It’s about having meaningful conversations with people that go beyond the usual how are you and have a nice day greetings we all automatically seem to say before moving right along. It’s about doing things for others for no return other than the satisfaction of knowing that you have helped someone out. It’s about connection, to each other, to your own life, to what you really want to do. Reordering your priorities so you’re living a life that you want to wake up to each morning. As Joy points out:
“People should be able to find magic in the everyday if they want lasting happiness.”
If Kisses Cured Cancer is sad, yes, in some places I was reading it with one eye while I dabbed the other with my t-shirt before swapping eyes and repeating, over and over. Joy has cancer, it’s bound to be sad. But Joy is not a sad person, just like Matt is not a depressing person. These are two young people who love each other and know there is an end date but refuse to be shut down by it. In knowing Joy, and in loving Joy, Matt’s life is forever changed. He comes of age.
If Kisses Cured Cancer is life affirming fiction. I was smiling all the time while I read it, even through my tears. It’s a remarkable novel, and my mind has just been going over the story ever since I finished reading it. We only have so much life to live, so why do some of us waste so much of it? I want to share this following extract with you because it really showcases what sort of person Joy is and the effect she has on Matt’s life. This is a scene that takes place when Joy attends Uni for the day with Matt:
“So, I can get all the knowledge I want here for free. You’re doing it all wrong. I don’t even know why you’re paying for this, or why you enrolled at all. You should be getting a guerrilla education. You should be taking advantage and just sliding in wherever you like.”
“A guerrilla education?” Matt asks, puzzled. “I think maybe you’ve lost it.”
“No. Don’t you see?” Joy slaps Matt on the chest. “You’re not coming here to get a qualification. An Arts degree doesn’t qualify you for anything anyway! You’re coming here to be a writer. All the best writers know something about everything. You need to be going to every class you can, even if it’s just for people watching.”
“But what would the point be?” Matt screws up his nose.
Joy throws her hands up in the air in exasperation, like she’s speaking to a child.
“The point is that you learn. Who cares about passing tests, as long as you have the knowledge at the end, right? As long as you can figure out the necessary tools to become a writer, then you’ve achieved your goal.”
The dynamics between these two reminded me a little of Tiffany and Pat in Silver Linings Playbook (a long time favourite of mine), different issues but that same embracing of life and love, despite the odds against them, and a similar snappy dynamic between the two. Matt and Joy had a terrific connection that spoke of kindred spirits and it was so gratifying to see Matt’s self-worth improve over the course of the novel, for him to accept that he was a man who was not only worthy of living, but of being loved. I adored his besties Gerard and Z and the way Matt paired these two up; just further evidence of Matt’s status as the loveliest man in literature. These were two characters that really rounded out the novel well, and the way they adopted Joy towards the end was very special. If the last cancer book you read was The Fault In Our Stars and you swore you’d never do it to yourself again, fear not! If Kisses Cured Cancer is not going to rob you of breath because you are sobbing so hard. You will shed tears, definitely, but the life affirming and uplifting feeling you will also become possessed with will more than make the tears worth it. And you will laugh a lot because Matt has a uniquely matter of fact way of looking at life and Z is just gold. I always get a certain feeling when I listen to a Vance Joy song, any of his songs, and I got this same feeling while reading If Kisses Cured Cancer. The low, the high, low again, and then a big soar. I am definitely going to read this novel again and I am rather chuffed to be in possession of a signed copy.
If Kisses Cured Cancer is the second Up Lit novel I’ve read in the last week and in terms of contemporary fiction, it’s fast becoming my go to category. I really can’t recommend this novel highly enough, it’s utterly gorgeous and the small town setting will make you feel right at home. In his author notes at the end of the book, Tim says that his work is done if you can’t ever look at a lone trolley full of groceries the same way again after reading this novel. Definitely! And I probably won’t ever be able to walk past a lovely garden without thinking about the person who nurtures it every day either. So many little impressions have been left upon me by this novel and I can assure you that this is a guaranteed good read that will stay with you long after you finish the last page.
Thanks is extended to the author for providing me with a copy of If Kisses Cured Cancer for review.
About the Author:
Tim Hawken’s creative writing not only entertains, it probes the deepest questions to life. His wit and humour often disguise the serious nature of his work. Tim holds a Bachelor Degree in Arts and Commerce from Deakin University, with honours in Philosophy and majors in Literature, Journalism and Marketing. His first novel was born while on the road, written on aeroplanes and hotel rooms. Titled Hellbound, the book was discovered on an online writer’s forum by Dangerous Little Books author CJ Werleman (God Hates You, Hate Him Back), who immediately recommended it to his publisher. Hellbound has since been followed by sequel, I Am Satan and Deicide. Tim also writes literary fiction as T.S. Hawken. His novel If Kisses Cured Cancer will be available May 2018. Tim currently lives with his laptop in Western Australia.