The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip // by Sara Brunsvold

NB: This book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for a review, which does not impact my opinions of the book.

//published 2022//

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, and I’m not sure how to describe what I got.  It’s rather a simple novel in terms of its story, but I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I anticipated, and it really choked me up at the end as well.

Aidyn is a cub reporter for the Kansas City Star and starting to get impatient with the research and fluff that she’s assigned.  However, she makes a misstep by approaching her boss’s boss asking for more difficult work, and is now even more on the back burner than before.  When her boss sends her to write an obituary for a woman in hospice care, Aidyn knows she’s being punished for pushing too hard.

Clara Kip just found out she has cancer – and probably only a week or two to live.  At 79, she knows she’s had a full life and her faith reassures her that death isn’t the end, but no one gets excited about dying, especially when you’re a childless widow with no close family, staying alone in hospice care.  But Clara is determined to embrace every moment she has left, and asks God to show her if there is anything else He has for her to do – and He sends her Aidyn.

If you aren’t a Christian, I’m not completely sure you’ll get much out of this book, as Clara’s fervent faith is the cornerstone of the story.  There is a lot here about dying, and the emotional and physical steps for both the person dying the those left behind.  I found all of this to be handled thoughtfully and well.  Despite the fact the whole plot is that one of the main characters is within a few days of dying, this book never felt morbid or depressing.  Instead, this was a story that inspires the reader to think about how our lives are full of opportunities to serve, even if it isn’t in the dramatic way we might hope for.

The book is told mostly in the present day (2016), but some sections are from the late 1970s.  In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, Clara finds a way to help Laotian refugees in her own hometown of Kansas City.  Clara’s original plan for her life was to be a missionary for orphans in Brazil, but that never came to fruition, leaving her bitter and disappointed for many years.  In many ways, this book is about accepting where we are and helping those around us however we can.  I loved this quote as Aidyn is thinking about all she has learned from Clara –

That woman, now spindly and vulnerable to falls, had once helped reshape the city’s cultural dynamic.  A woman who hadn’t fought in a war or influenced the law of the land or won a major game, but rather, with quiet courage and immeasurable compassion, had helped ensure that refugees were not left to their own devices.  The everyday woman who befriended and loved complete strangers, who stood in the gap between two clashing cultures not ready to wholly trust each other.  It all began because Mrs. Kip, intimately familiar with pain, once stopped amid her daily rush to comfort a grieving mother and unwittingly found herself in the center of world history.

Although this book flirts with the line, I didn’t feel that it crossed in the saccharine territory.  I found both Aidyn and Clara believable as characters and enjoyed their journey together.  I felt like Aidyn’s character arc was convincing and found Clara’s story to be inspiring and thought-provoking.  This was honestly what I’m looking for when I pick up a Revell title, and what I feel has been missing from the last few that I’ve reviewed from that publisher – a story that is actually centered on a character’s Christian faith, a faith that gives them purpose, direction, and hope.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Mrs. Kip, and hope that I can meet my final days with the same grace and peace that she did.