Cathy Rentzenbrink’s brother was knocked down by a car after a local night out. The Last Act of Love is the story of the relationship between Cathy and her brother, not just after he suffers from serious head injuries after the hit and run, but also throughout their entire lives.
Cathy remembers praying that her brother doesn’t die. Her prayers didn’t go unanswered but she realises now she was praying for the wrong thing, that there’s other options than just life and death. She feels at different stages it would’ve better if he’d died straight away. This book really gives Cathy’s deepest thoughts and feelings and her earliest memories of her brother. She recounts a conversation about love, something Matty says he doesn’t believe in. Cathy says she loves her parents, but perhaps Matty above all. Matty then says perhaps he loves her too.
She tries to remember the last moments and conversations they had but they seem to change over the years with things getting mixed up or disappearing from memory. She thinks that surely someone this fit and strong couldn’t just die. She hates people describing his condition as ‘vegetative’ but she’s grateful for the thought and prayers of all the well-wishers. The family care for him and wash him daily but other people gradully drift away.
The impact on her is huge. She’s unable to concentrate on schoolwork but is still able to lose herself in reading. She suffers from depression, panic attacks and drinks heavily. She feels herself becoming less pleasant and more angry but tries not to show it. Later, she goes time without visiting Matty and feels guilty because of it.
Cathy is someone very passionate about books. She’s been involved in various book-related fields, including selling books, working for Readiing Matter, and writing about books and speaking about them on the radio. This really shows in the way she’s constructed this beautiful book. She details the process of writing about the experience and it’s true that her story of grief has become a story of love. This is a book about a sister’s deep love for her brother and it’s incredibly powerful and moving.