Early readers called So This Is the End "a breath of fresh air,” "moving and beautiful," and something with which you’ll "fall in love the instant you start reading.”
#1 New Release in Science Fiction & Fantasy
In Nora Hamilton’s world, doctors have found a cure for death, with just one caveat—it only lasts for 24 hours. This beautifully-written novel poses a thoughtful question: how would you spend your last 24 hours before death?
One more day. One more chance to tell family you love them, feel the grass beneath your feet, or finally speak your mind. So This Is The End follows Nora Hamilton as she navigates her last 24 hours before death, and she is determined to do something meaningful with her last moments. While looking for unique bucket list ideas, a friend suggests going on one last first date. What happens next is like a love story. Of course Nora would fall in love in her last 24 hours before death.
Enter: Renzo. Ren, for short. Their connection is immediate. Nora wants love, no lies. Should she tell Ren the truth about her condition—that she has less than 24 hours left before her second death? How will he react? Is it unethical to fall in love with someone if you only have one day left on earth? Or is love a gift, even when it's found on the final day a person has left?
Inside So This Is The End, you’ll find:
- A love novel about taking chances, making your own rules, and how love does prevail
- How to treat all days like your final days—escape mundane living
- A moving romantic drama about finding love in your last 24 hours before death
If you liked The Midnight Library, Me Before You, or The Light We Lost, you’ll love So This Is The End.
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|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 7.10(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Franzen has a popular blog, website and a newsletter that goes to 20k fans. Her writing has been featured on websites like Time, Forbes, Newsweek, HuffPo, and Lifehacker, in song lyrics, and stenciled onto fine art paintings. She’s also one-half of the creative team behind HunnyMilk, a brunch restaurant in Portland. Alexandra Franzen appears on TV, radio, podcasts and in the media regularly. A beloved and nationally known writing teacher, So This Is the End is Franzen's first novel and is a work of visionary fiction.
Read an Excerpt
For the first twenty minutes or so, most people feel dizzy, parched, and disoriented. Others experience a flushed, frenzied feeling — like a feverish euphoria. But it's different for everyone. A small percentage of patients experience what doctors euphemistically describe as "a period of brief discomfort." Understatement of the century? Uh, yeah.
Currently, my "period of brief discomfort" includes jolts of searing pain in completely random places. My left ankle. The center of my forearms. The rims of my eyes. The fleshy connective tissue holding my hipbones in place. The soft underside of each fingernail.
The pain is so unbelievably intense, it's almost indescribable. The worst part is that I can't ask for help. I want to speak, but my throat feels paralyzed — like when you're dreaming and you're falling hopelessly off the edge of a skyscraper, or running to escape a pack of rabid wolves, and you try to scream but nothing comes out of your mouth. Not even the smallest sound. But I know I'm not dreaming. I know what thisis.
A nurse wearing powder-pink scrubs pats my hand and encourages me to take a few deep breaths. Her voice is soft, her tone unconcerned. She's seen this scenario a hundred times before.
She coos, "Just a few more minutes. I know, I know, it's no fun, but you're doing great. This is totally normal. I know, I know ..." and keeps patting my hand. Pat, pat, pat.
I focus my eyes on the clock mounted onto the hospital wall and I will myself to breathe. One small sip of air every few seconds. Tick, tock, tick. The second hand moves hypnotically inside its glass cage, one notch at a time. Black hand. White clock. Beige wall. Speckled tiles. I wonder how long I've been conscious. There are no windows. I wonder if it's morning or night.
Warmth spreads across my body, and I feel something shift inside of me. Muscles loosen. Neural pathways reignite. The nurse checks the dilation of my eyes.
"Do you think you can sit upright? How about a few sips of juice?" she asks.
I nod. She offers me a small plastic cup of orange juice, and it tastes like seaweed, egg yolks, and black licorice. It's all wrong. I wince and try to spit it out, but my face doesn't cooperate and now it's dribbling down my chin. Humiliating. She smiles kindly.
"Taste is one of the last senses to return," she explains. "But don't worry, all of your vitals look perfect. Just give it a little more time. You're almost there. Try to stay relaxed, and don't move your left arm, OK?"
She gestures towards my arm, which is hooked up to a massive electrolyte drip. "The doctor will stop by shortly for your exit examination."
She pads out of the room in her spotless white sneakers. There's a metal tray to my right, and I set down my glass of undrinkable juice, switching to water instead. It tastes like water is supposed to, which is a considerable relief. I gulp as quickly as I can, letting it lubricate my raw, cottony, aggravated throat. Happily, my facial muscles cooperate a bit better this time. No dribbling. I down the entire glass. I feel like I could drink forever.
There's the most god-awful taste in my mouth, and it's not from the juice. It's my own breath. It's a horrible stench. Rotten. Deathly. Like I just smoked a moldy cigarette and washed it down with a can of oily sardines and stale corn chips. The water helps a little. Not enough. Note to self: find a toothbrush as soon as humanly possible.
I gaze at the wall-mounted clock once again, finding it oddly soothing. The second hand moves rhythmically — pulsing forward, unendingly, like the ocean lapping the shore.
There's a reason for all of this.
A reason why I feel like human garbage. A reason why there's an IV needle piercing my left arm. Why I'm waiting to be examined by a doctor in a room I've never seen before. Why I'm lying here, semi-paralyzed, gradually regaining control over my body.
I chose this.
This is my "bonus round."
An extra twenty-four hours of life, even though I've already died. "Temporary Cellular Resuscitation" is the official medical terminology. TCR for short.
I've been resuscitated — successfully, it appears — and now I have approximately twenty-four hours to do whatever I want. Call my mom. Say goodbye to friends. Make amends. Watch the sunset one last time. You know, wrap things up with a nice, tidy bow before my body wilts and I die again a second time — permanently. Because that's how it works. After you die a second time, that's it. It's fully and completely over. You don't come back. There is no third chance. Hence the word: "Temporary."
TCR is pretty expensive. Health insurance doesn't cover it because it's considered an elective procedure. A luxury — like laser hair removal or teeth whitening — not a necessity. Some people think it's frivolous. Conservative religious types think it's tampering with God's plan. Most people think it's an unnecessary expense or simply can't afford it. Some, I suspect, could afford it but choose not to invest because they don't want to think about dying — let alone dying twice. Bottom line: most people don't purchase TCR.
Apparently, I'm not most people.
As soon as TCR was approved by the FDA, I leapt at the chance to purchase it. I honestly can't explain why it appealed to me so much. Curiosity, maybe. Fear. Both. I don't know. Who knows why anybody wants anything they want? I just knew that I wanted — needed — this procedure. A chance to rebound from death back to life? Sign me up. I couldn't really afford it, but I impulsively made the purchase anyway.
I called the TCR agency located closest to my home — I searched on Yelp first, of course, and it got terrific reviews, almost entirely five stars — and I spoke to a cheery, somewhat robotic customer service rep.
She asked for my birth date, home address, social security number to automatically notify the IRS in the event of my death ("One less loose end for your loved ones to tie up!" she explained enthusiastically), the name of my primary care physician, family health history, and all the other pieces of administrative minutiae that you would expect.
"Would you like to make a series of three payments, or shall we take care of your entire payment today?" she asked me in a thoroughly rehearsed fashion.
All of it, I confirmed. I paid the $9,999 fee with my American Express Gold Rewards card, maxing out my limit. The sales rep explained that I'd receive an email confirmation note within minutes, and that I'd be entered into a nationwide database so I could receive the TCR procedure at any hospital, anywhere in the United States.
"Except Hawaii and Alaska," she added. "Though we are working diligently on expanding our coverage base."
Awesome. I can die almost anywhere I want, I remember thinking morbidly. Such a convenience.
"Thank you for your purchase today. On behalf of everyone here at the Timeless Moments TCR Clinic of Minneapolis, I'm wishing you good health, and I hope you won't need the service you've purchased for a very long time."
"Me too," I replied. That was the end of our conversation.
I died at my local hospital less than three years after that phone call. I was thirty-two years old. Or should I say, I am thirty-two years old? I guess today, the answer is: both.
I know it sounds so cliché, but it hasn't really settled in that I'm dead. It doesn't feel real yet. I thought I'd have more time. A lot more time. I guess almost everyone thinks that.
I'm feeling lightheaded, and I wonder if that's another TCR side effect. Seems pretty likely.
TCR is a pretty crazy procedure — like something out of a sci-fi movie. Every cell in my body has been artificially revived with an intense electric shock, plus an influx of fresh plasma and electrolytes, plus an intrathecal injection. So, imagine a giant needle filled with epinephrine — pure adrenaline, basically — pumping directly into your spinal column. A flood of synthetic, lab-generated hormones flooding your body combined with that lightning snap of electricity and Zow! You're temporarily back in action. Like Frankenstein's monster, but without the green skin and those weird plugs on either side of your neck.
And here I am.
This is Hour One. The very first hour of my twenty-four-hour bonus round. I paid for it — now it's my time to use however I want.
Obviously, I want to make the most of this extra time. I want to maximize every minute.
Unfortunately, there's no guarantee that I'll get exactly twenty-four hours — that's more of an average guideline. Around hour twenty-three, most people start to fade. Fainting. Wobbling. Progressive organ shut down. It could happen sooner. Or you might be one of the lucky ones and get past the twenty-four-hour mark. They say this one guy in Croatia made it to twenty-nine hours and fourteen minutes. That's the record.
Some experts claim that stress-relief techniques — like meditation, or even a glass of red wine — can help to extend the TCR timeframe and help you eke out a couple of extra minutes, maybe even an extra hour, but who knows? New studies are being done all the time and the findings never seem consistent. The only thing that's certain is that TCR provides a second chance at life, but pretty quickly, the ride is over. There's a big, fat period at the end of the sentence, not an ellipsis.
I glance at the clock. Is it my imagination, or is the second hand moving at double-speed? I feel flushed with urgency, itching to get out of this bed. Where is that damn doctor?
I am thirty minutes into my bonus round, and I've done basically nothing except feel uncomfortable, pathetically choke down some water, and stare at the clock on the wall. Jesus. Not exactly a rip-roaring start to my last day on earth.
My phone is resting on the tray next to my half-finished juice. I should call my mom. Except I have no idea what to say.
"Hi, mom, I'm dead ... but I'm sorta-fake-alive for about a day, so I figured I'd call ... uh, how's the retirement center? Are they serving JellO tonight?"
Yeah, no. I'm not emotionally ready for that phone call just yet. Maybe in a few hours.
I flip through my phone to the Memo section where I jot down notes and reminders. I know I've got a list in there called "bonus round," filled with all the things I told myself I would definitely do on this very special day.
"Eat a cheeseburger." "Pet a puppy." "Dance like nobody's watching."
It's a long list filled with all kinds of obvious stuff like that. Dance like nobody's watching? Seriously? That's the best I could come up with? None of it feels important anymore — and time is running out.
What is taking the doctor so long?
Exasperated, I down the rest of my juice. It tastes like oranges should. So that's good.
Maybe I should check Facebook.CHAPTER 2
The first thing I do is change my Facebook status to "Remembering."
That's Facebook's polite way of indicating, "This person is dead — let's remember them fondly, shall we?" I prop myself up and angle my phone from above so I can take a hospital bed selfie. As usual, it takes about fifteen tries before I get a decent looking photo. I tweak the color saturation and add a filter to make myself look a little more vibrant, a little less gross. Then I post the photo along with an update:
So ... I died.
I pause, weighing my words carefully. What are you supposed to say in this type of situation? How do you announce your own death to hundreds of semi-friends?
Remember that weird thing that was going on with my heart, guys? The crazy-fast beating and fluttering feeling?
Well, as some of you already know, I was diagnosed with genetic arrhythmia, and I went into surgery for a catheter ablation. (That's a fancy term for: doctors using lasers to cauterize the rogue cell that was causing my heart to beat irregularly.)
Ablations are typically a really safe procedure. Super high success rate. 99.4% of patients get through it with no problem. .6% don't make it. I was one of the .6%.
Turns out, I died due to a complication with the anesthesia. Some type of freak allergic reaction to the drugs or something. They didn't even have a chance to begin the surgery. I died before they even cut me open.
I pause again, wondering how I know all of these specific details about my death.
Was I briefed by my surgeon at some point? I don't remember that conversation. Yet the information is flowing out of my fingertips, and I know each word is one hundred percent accurate, but how could I know all of this? I was unconscious throughout all of it. At least, I think I was. Or maybe some part of me was conscious the whole time, watching from inside, or from outside my body? Watching from above?
It's too weird to process the implications of what that could mean, so I focus my attention back onto Facebook. I keep typing.
So that's how I died. I guess I should feel shocked, or upset, but it hasn't fully hit me yet ...
Maybe I'm "oversharing." Is Facebook the right place for this type of announcement? Do my online friends and acquaintances really want to hear all of this? I'm aware that it's kind of a bummer. Also, how do I finish up this post? Maybe something like:
This is your sorta-dead friend, over and out, you may now return to your baby photos, engagement rings, and cat memes?
I drum my fingers for a few moments, trying to think of some type of witty closing statement. You know. Probably the final words I'll ever write. No pressure or anything.
I settle on this:
I'm doing my "bonus round" right now. Struggling to think of things to do with my time. I've got about twenty-four hours before ... you know. Any ideas?
I post the update and lean back in my hospital bed. I refresh the screen.
Jesus Christ. So many comments. Such a big reaction, more than anything I've ever posted before. Everyone has an opinion on what I ought to do with my bonus round. Well, I did ask.
Watch the sunset ...
Go bungee jumping ...
Eat a TON of chocolate ...
Dance like nobody's watching ...
The list goes on and on. Dozens of well-intentioned suggestions. Maybe even hundreds. But for some reason, all of the encouraging words just make me even more frustrated and depressed. Also: why is everyone obsessed with dancing like nobody's watching? Who decided that's the "thing" to do to before your time on earth is up? Oprah? Deepak Chopra? The cast of Dancing with the Stars?
I know my friends are just trying to help — but it's not helping. They don't get it. Nobody gets it. Not a single one of my friends can understand what this feels like — this feeling of absolute finality. Knowing that time is, quite literally, running out.
I Google "Ideas on what to do during your bonus round" and find numerous blog posts with titles like "31 Helpful Tips For Your TCR Experience" and "100 Final Day Ideas! (#23 Will Seriously Blow Your Mind!)." I click around for several minutes, lulled into the glow of the screen, and then it hits me:
I'm nearly two hours into my bonus round — and all I've done is check Facebook and click through a couple of Google search results.
This is how I'm spending my final day on earth? This is my grand finale? A sickening feeling pools in my stomach, something between shame, embarrassment, urgency, and genuine terror. No. This isn't how it's going to go down.
I need to get out of this hospital.
As if on cue, the doctor arrives to examine me. Finally. Any longer and I might have ripped the IV drip out of my arm myself.
He nods at my chart, listens to my heart, and taps both of my knees with a tiny plastic hammer. He asks if I can stand up, if I can yawn for him and say ahhh, if I remember my name and what year it is. Everything's all good. Thumbs-up. He scribbles a few notes on a clipboard and then gestures to a table where some fresh clothes are laid out for me to change into. But he's not quite finished yet. "Just one last thing ..."
He shows me an app on my phone that will track my movements and send an ambulance in case I need assistance at any point.
"Assistance" is a euphemism for: pick up my failing, crumpling body if I don't, can't, or won't return to the hospital in time for my second death.
"But don't worry too much about that, OK? Just enjoy yourself," he urges me. "I hope this special day is everything you, ah ..." There's an awkward beat. "Everything you had hoped it would be."
A flash of pity crosses his eyes, as if he's just now realizing my "condition." As if he's seeing me for the first time. I wonder, momentarily, if he has a son or a daughter and how old she might be. My age? Younger? Older? Does she look like me? I wonder if he's wondering how much time she has left. Or how much time he has left. Nothing like staring death in the face to abruptly remind you of your own mortality.
"Do you have kids?" I ask.
He nods. "Two."
"Please tell them you love them. Today."
His eyes mist over and I know I've struck a raw nerve. My eyes fill with tears, too, and I reach out instinctively to take his hands into mine. He doesn't protest. We say nothing.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "So This Is the End"
Copyright © 2018 Alexandra Franzen.
Excerpted by permission of Mango Media, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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