Laura spends her days looking at other people’s potential calamities. She works in the radiography unit of a small hospital on the Maine coast, bearing constant witness to the fears of patient after frightened patient. In a job where finding nothing is always the best possible outcome, she is well versed in the random injustices of life, a truism that has lately been playing out in her marriage as well. Since being downsized, her husband, Dan, has become withdrawn, his emotional distance gradually corroding their relationship. With a son in college and a daughter soon due to leave home, Laura has begun to fear that the marital sounds of silence will only deepen once the nest is truly empty.
When an opportunity arises to attend a weekend medical conference in Boston, Laura jumps at this respite from home. While checking in, she meets a man as gray and uninspired as her drab hotel room. Richard is an outwardly dull, fiftysomething insurance salesman. But during a chance second encounter, Laura discovers him to be surprisingly complex and thoughtful, someone who, like herself, is grappling with the same big questions about decisions made and the human capacity for self-entrapment. As their conversation deepens and begins to veer into shared confessions, the overwhelming sense of personal and intimate connection arises. A transformative love affair begins. But can this potential, much-longed-for happiness be married to their own difficult personal circumstances? Can they upend their lives and embrace that most loaded of words: change?
A love story as clear-sighted and ruminative as it is affecting, Five Days will have you reflecting about the choices we all make that shape our destinies. Crafted with Kennedy’s trademark evocative prose and pitch-perfect in its depiction of the complex realities of modern life, it is a novel that speaks directly to the many contradictions of the human heart.
Read an Excerpt
I SAW THE CANCER immediately. It was right there in front of me. As always, I found myself taking a sharp intake of breath as the realization hit: I am looking at the beginning of the end.
The cancer was shaped like a dandelion. Sometimes this sort of tumor looks like a cheap Christmas decoration—a five-and-dime star with ragged edges. But this specific one was more like a minor-looking flower that had been denuded, stripped down to its seeds, but with an insidious, needle-like structure. What... see more
Reading Group Guide
Laura works in a small hospital on the Maine coast, scanning and X-raying many a scared patient. In a job where finding nothing is always the best result, she is well versed in the random unfairness of life, especially since her husband, Dan, lost his job—and his interest in her. Still, Laura jumps at the opportunity to attend a radiography conference in Boston, where she meets Richard, a fiftysomething salesman. After a chance encounter, Laura begins to discover a complex and thoughtful man who ponders his own life and wonders if the time has come to choose desire over obligation. Five Days is a moving love story that will have readers reflecting about the choices made that shape all our destinies.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Why do you think Douglas Kennedy wrote Laura’s story as it happens in just five days? How would the novel be different if it weren’t limited to this time frame? What does it gain by the limitation?
2. Laura and Lucy “both read t see more