Title: Beware of Falling Coconuts
Author: Gillian McNeill
Date of publication: 2019
Number of pages: 160
Format reviewed: eBook
“Give me a year of your life and I will give you your life.”
I can’t really remember the conversation that followed, I felt like a child sitting in the headmaster’s office. This was serious, this was actually happening. Why couldn’t I react? I was 49 years old. A wife, a mum, but cancer has no prejudice.
Despite the grueling treatment, I was inspired by the courage of others who showed me that there was humour to be found even in the most bizarre situations. From losing my hair to losing my memory, there was one clear message: I lost my boob, not my sense of humour.
The big C word is scary. Every day, it visits new people, it challenges doctors, and torture bodies. When I was reading Beware of Falling Coconuts, I began to wonder how on earth I would review it. I can’t imagine how Gillian wrote it. But she did. She named the monsters, she showed the tears, and most of all, she found a way – if not to make it less scary – to help understand people who are dealing with a diagnosis, families supporting patients, and medical staff’s efforts to keep life strong and pulsing in everyone’s veins.
Do I feel equipped to review this book? Yes and no. My grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago, but as she was already suffering from Alzheimer’s, she didn’t undergo any treatment. They removed the cancerous cells and we are now hoping for the best. Twenty years ago, aged twenty-four, my mother was diagnosed with cervical cancer. My memories of that time are vague but every time I think about it now, I shudder. I get scared just thinking of what might have been, or what she went through. She fought on her own, a single mom with barely any help, and she survived. Twice. She is my hero.
Gillian McNeill’s novel helped me put images on what life with cancer was. I believe no path is the same, but there was comfort in Beware of Falling Coconuts. I accepted notions I hate, like the fact your body fights but you are not in charge of the result, that some souls carry a light around that makes the worst seem less heavy to carry.
Of course, Gillian’s account of her journey through cancer is moving. It is brutally honest and raw. But between the lines shines humor and a lightness you’re surprised to find. I found this book beautiful in its truthfulness. I chuckled at moments you’re not supposed to. I pondered over details that don’t come to mind at first but are part of life, of the process. Those bits that make up every day life and that are tainted by cancer.
I feel I am a different person after reading Gillian’s hilarious and poignant book. It helped me stop being afraid of the big word, and it’s one step towards cancer not being a taboo. Because it still is. And even if we’re aware of it, we should be able to talk about it more freely.
Equally as important, Gillian reminds us of the passion of life and her personality shines through, making this account a unique tool for anyone going through something similar. I’d also like to mention I was lucky to meet Gillian and she is a ray of sunshine.
I would like to thank Gillian McNeill for telling her story with such bravery and humor.
Grab your copy, and read it when you are ready.
Gillian was born and brought up in Monifieth. After graduating from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, Gillian worked as an actress in theatre, radio and television. She is probably best known for playing the character of Lynne McNeil, in the long running soap opera Take the High Road, for Scottish Television.
After living in London, and then Australia for several years, she returned to Glasgow where she currently lives with her husband Alan, daughter Molly and Toy Poodle Maggie.
Gillian began writing and performing shows for children when Molly started school. These proved to be very popular amongst the early years audiences and gave her a taste for writing and creating her own work.
BEWARE OF FALLING COCONUTS is her first book.