In her poignant debut novel, Before I Go (Gallery Books), local freelance journalist Colleen Oakley uses likable characters and gallows humor to explore issues of death, life, coping, and letting go. The story is told almost entirely in the voice of Daisy Richmond, a young woman who survived one bout of breast cancer but is diagnosed with a stage-four recurrence on her “cancerversary.” In her final six months, Daisy becomes consumed with finding a replacement wife for her husband, Jack. The conceit may not be entirely surprising, but Oakley tells this story with such confidence and grace that readers will find themselves fully invested in—and emotionally braced for—the unfolding tragedy.
Six years ago, Oakley interviewed a woman dying of metastasized breast cancer. “For days after, I couldn’t stop thinking about what I would do in that situation, but more importantly, what would my husband do if I died,” says Oakley. “Would he remarry? What would she be like? And then I wondered: What would I want her to be like?”
Oakley’s next project? A novel about a woman who is allergic to other people. “It’s going to be really amazing—or really terrible. Depends on the day you’re asking,” she says.
On the calendar: Celebrate the publication of Before I Go at Westside’s Room & Board on January 6.
Read more: Our online exclusive interview with Oakley
This article originally appeared in our January 2015 issue.