On 20 January 2010, St. John Greene lost his wife to cancer. Kate was only 38, and she and St. John (Singe) had two small boys.

When Kate realized she wasn’t going to live to see her boys grown, she enlisted Singe’s help in capturing a list of things Kate wanted for her boys, and memories of her she wanted the boys to have as they got older.

In Mum’s List, St. John Greene recounts his love affair with Kate, the impact of Cancer on their family, Kate’s “Mum’s List” and surviving their tragic loss. Written with a ghost writer, Rachel Murphy, Mum’s List is simultaneously hopeful and heartbreaking, inspiring and and sentimental.

When Kate set out to write her list, she left some very specific instructions like “Kiss boys two times after I have gone” and “Celebrate birthdays big time” along with special memories she had of each of her sons and the types of treats she enjoyed. Simply a mother’s last effort to leave something of herself with the family she wasn’t yet ready to leave.

There are certainly sad and sentimental moments in the book. Kate’s mother’s email to friends and family telling them of Kate’s death gutted me in its simplicity.  Yet the book is not wallowing in self-pity. Part of it is the story of a man who was crazy in love with his wife, the story of a couple who lived a life full of adventure and living on the edge.  Part of it is figuring out how to be a single father to sons, while struggling with the right mix of remembering their mother and allowing them to move forward.

I really enjoyed Mum’s List. I was a bit afraid of reading it at first, scared it would be maudlin or very sad.  I confess I did tear up a few times, but overall, I found the book inspiring. It would have been so easy for Singe to become bitter and dwell on his loss. Partially inspired by Kate’s list, partially just Singe’s character, the family moved on. Not without ups and downs, and certainly not creating a better life but creating the best life they can, around a Kate-shaped hole.

Without being spoiler-y, this family has experienced more than their share of tragedy. Yet they still choose to embrace life and adventure, celebrate their family and friends, and focus on making memories. Kate’s “Mum’s List” was made up mostly of everyday things, but a poignant reminder that the best of life is most often made up of the simpler things.

This books was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.