By Stephen Manchester
Reviewed by Angie Mangino
Rating: 5 stars
From the very first page, Manchester’s mastery of descriptive language propels the reader into the life of Don DiMarco, a man given at best, twelve months left to live. By seeing Don’s life through his own eyes, thoughts, and memories, the reader examines life and grows along with him as he travels the stages after the prognosis.
Told in first person narrative, Twelve Months introduces the reader to Don DiMarco up close and personally, as he deals with the doctor telling him that because of colon cancer, he has, at best twelve months left to live.
DiMarco, a 57-year-old machinist, retired early to live the time he had left with his wife Bella, and to spend more time with their daughter, Riley and her husband, Michael, along with grandchildren Madison and Pudge. He took to a lifelong passion of doing jigsaw puzzles as well as dwelling in his memories.
At the suggestion of his wife, Bella, a wise and supportive woman, Don composes a “No Regrets” list of the top five things he always wanted to do, but didn’t.
Bella then sets out to find ways for Don to do them and the reader tags along to the speedway, dude ranch, police car ride as a reporter, inside an RV, and looking to land a 40 lb. striped bass. They take trips together: to Vietnam, to make peace with the country he only saw as a soldier during war, local trips to places they loved, and a much belated Barbados honeymoon for the couple.
In the process, Don begins to see the goodness in his life to the point of getting closer to God by saying prayers of thanks instead of begging for a cure. As he becomes more ill, he also becomes wiser to the important things in life that he works to instill into his grandchildren. He shares the wisdom he had not understood before with the reader at the end of chapter one.
“…the most important thing I’ve passed on is that life can be a beautiful dream, or a living nightmare. It’s all about your attitude; your perspective.”
Twelve Months may be the story of a man given a limited time to live, yet rather than being a depressing story; it is a joyful story that lays tribute to life. Throughout the book, the words attributed to Abraham Lincoln kept crossing my mind. “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”