Released on 02 July 2015.

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The Last Act of Love

The Story of My Brother and His Sister

4.12 based on 1808 ratings & 226 reviews on

2016 Short-listed

The Wellcome Trust Book Prize


In the summer of 1990, Cathy's brother Matty was knocked down by a car on the way home from a night out. It was two weeks before his GCSE results, which turned out to be the best in his school. Sitting by his unconscious body in hospital, holding his hand and watching his heartbeat on the monitors, Cathy and her parents willed him to survive. They did not know then that there are many and various fates worse than death.

This is the story of what happened to Cathy and her brother, and the unimaginable decision that she and her parents had to make eight years after the night that changed everything. It's a story for anyone who has ever watched someone suffer or lost someone they loved or lived through a painful time that left them forever changed. Told with boundless warmth and affection, The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink is a heartbreaking yet uplifting testament to a family's survival and the price we pay for love.

In the media

Profoundly moving . . . It is a great achievement to transform such a terrible story - one of a kind with which, as a neurosurgeon, I am painfully familiar - into something rather beautiful and uplifting . . .This book should be read by everybody who has either personal or professional experience of severe head injury and, indeed, by anybody who is concerned by the way our society has such difficulty in accepting that meaningful life is about more than just a beating heart.
New Statesman
There are only two ways that this book will be read: devoured in the middle of the night in one sitting, or eked out, only a few pages a day, because the feelings it prompts are simply too intense. Either way, it will both stick with you and have you grabbing the forearm of whoever asks you what to read next intensely, so they know how great this is . . . a gobsmacking memoir about family and love. Truly, it will inspire you to be your very best self for a long time after the final page.
The Debrief
Profoundly moving . . . The book's real power lies in Rentzenbrink's skill as a writer, her ability to unearth precise and agonising details quietly, with no self-pity or drama . . . it falls into a tradition of beautifully written accounts of grief, such as Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking . . . Rentzenbrink offers a message of enormous hope for anybody who is going through loss, grief or trauma . . . She emerges from this unflinching memoir with dignity, strength and an enormous heart
Sunday Times