OK, I am on a roll today. May be because I am going to get back to my back bending (pun intended) work from Monday, I am trying to make the most of this week and the weekend. And I sure did choose some good movie and a good novel to complete today. Even though it left me teary eyed and emotionally muddled up.
The Fault in Our Stars: Another brilliant young adult fiction by John Green. I liked his ‘Looking for Alaska‘ earlier. And I have heard good reviews of this book. So I picked it up after the successful HEA based romantic series. Let us say I was hooked right from the start and I don’t know how long this post will be, so I will tell you upfront, this is a must read.
Spoiler Alert (will contain quotes till the last chapter from the book).
This story is about Hazel Grace, who is suffering from cancer and is on a test medicine and has an oxygen tube attached to her all the time. She visits this Support Group where she is friends with Issac, who is going to get operated for his cancer in the eyes which will render him blind. One day she finds a hot guy, who is Issac’s friend, Augustus Waters or Gus, who was a cancer patient himself, but currently there is no recurrence and has only one leg and is a former basket ball player who is full of life and energy. The day Hazel meets Augustus, lot of things change for both of them. Hazel is smart. You know why, because this is what she says in the first chapter and then there is whole dialog about fear of oblivion with Gus.
“But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying. (Cancer is also a side effect of dying. Almost everything is, really.)”
She also has this quote where she refers to the book title.
“Shakespeare more wrong than when he had Cassius note, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves.” Easy enough to say when you’re a Roman nobleman (or Shakespeare!), but there is no shortage of fault to be found amid our stars.”
or when she is writing an ad to sell the swing set which makes her very sad only looking at it, because she can never be healthy enough to play in it as she had done it earlier with her dad when she was young.
“Make memories with your kid or kids so that someday he or she or they will look into the backyard and feel the ache of sentimentality as desperately as I did this afternoon. It’s all fragile and fleeting, dear reader, but with this swing set, your child(ren) will be introduced to the ups and downs of human life gently and safely, and may also learn the most important lesson of all: No matter how hard you kick, no matter how high you get, you can’t go all the way around.”
She has a clear understanding of what life is for her as a person whose life is limited in years or with a small set of infinite’s as she says. She sure would have liked to have a bigger infinite and she knows that some infinite’s are greater but she accepts what is and braves it through.
She has this craze about a book called ‘An Imperial Affliction’ written by Peter van Houten, which is about a girl battling a cancer and the books ends abruptly in a mid sentence, like like Anna, the girl’s life. She writes to the author too many times to find out what happened next, but doesn’t get any replies. Her friendship with Gus grows slowly and steadily. She doesn’t want to be a grenade in Gus’s life and leave him hanging just like his previous girlfriend who also died battling cancer. So she is skeptical about taking their relationship to the next level, even though he confesses his love for her and even though she likes him a lot, like a real lot. One day Gus tells her that he got a reply from van Houten’s assistant about his whereabouts (the author is currently in Netherlands and is MIA) and that he has written a reply to his email through her. This gets Hazel excited and she also tries to contact him and he does reply and says that he will be able to explain the after events only in person because he fears piracy or that someone will eavesdrop and write a sequel to his novel. She so wants to visit Netherlands after hearing this, but her parents couldn’t afford it and she had already used her wish with the Genie foundation to a visit to Disneyland. So Gus, who had saved his wish is ready to use it for them, for which Hazel is grateful and worried. But even before they could get the plan into action, she is admitted in hospital due to pneumonia and refuses to see Gus for a week when she is in her worse form. But he confirms that nothing she does will make him love her less.
After she recovers, they take the trip to Netherlands with Gus and her mom. They have a wonderful first day in Amsterdam where only Gus and Hazel go for a already paid dinner in an exclusive restaurant and enjoy the beauty of the city from it.
“Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin.”
This is what they say about the city after observing it and getting a lot closer than they thought, even in spite of her tube and his prosthetic leg. The next day they meet the author who is an alcoholic and is outright harsh with them. Gus and Hazel are surprised by his behavior and he outright refuses to indulge in anything and is totally annoyed that Hazel is trying to imitate Anna. The assistant apologizes and tells them that she thought that their visit will help him understand how much the book meant to others and there by try to make him write again. They then visit the Anne Frank’s museum and that is where Hazel shows her love for him by kissing him before everyone. They spend the night together and she declares her love for him too.
During the last day, Gus confesses that his cancer has come back and that he knew it when she was in hospital due to pneumonia and both their parents were aware of that. He apologizes for not letting her know which in turn might have spoiled the trip for her. He tells her that he doesn’t have much longer to live. So when Hazel is trying to not be a grenade and blow up his life, the wheels turn around and it is now Gus who becomes the grenade. She is struck by it and offers him her support to spend the life for as long as they have. But things go downward for Gus even when Hazel fights her own pain. This is what she says about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
“According to Maslow, I was stuck on the second level of the pyramid, unable to feel secure in my health and therefore unable to reach for love and respect and art and whatever else, which is, of course, utter horseshit: The urge to make art or contemplate philosophy does not go away when you are sick. Those urges just become transfigured by illness.”
She wishes that she had more time with Gus but as she says the world is not a wish granting factory. One day, Gus asks her and Issac to eulogize his funeral, which he wanted to attend even before his death and within a few days Gus leaves her to handle the scar of his existence, his love for her, which he tried to resist but couldn’t avoid it. She misses him very much and understand this about dreams coming true.
“….and it occurred to me that the voracious ambition of humans is never sated by dreams coming true, because there is always the thought that everything might be done better and again.”
In his funeral, she sees Peter van Houten, because he had mailed her to attend his funeral as a show of being a better human being and let Hazel know of the sequel to the events. But Hazel doesn’t want any of that. And then realizes that he acted that way because he had lost someone to cancer. Peter confesses that he lost his daughter at a very young age and since then he hasn’t been himself. She in turn is no longer interested to know what happened next in the book. Later Issac tells her one day that Gus had been writing something for her. So she goes and searches his room, the place where they read his eulogy but nothing to be found. Then she realizes that he might have sent it to Peter van Houten. So she emails Liz (his assistant) and she gets 4 pages of the letter that he wrote to Peter, requesting him to write an eulogy for Hazel with his words, because , according to him, even though he (Gus) was a good person he was a shitty writer and that Peter was a good writer and a shitty person. In his final words he says,
“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers.”
She does. She is happy to be hurt by him. As are we.