My Brilliant Life is the story of Areum who is approaching his sixteenth and likely his last birthday. Born with progeria, the disease that causes a child to age rapidly, Areum wants to give his parents a final gift, the story of their lives. The story goes from the past, including how his parents met and came to marry, and the present, including his friendship with his aged neighbor Grandpa Jang.
As his medical needs become even more demanding, a television show features him and his family in an effort to raise money. This results in making a connection with a new friend. In all of this, Areum faces his coming death with courage, humor, and love. He explores the world through books and his friends, trying to understand the life he will never live to experience.
My Brilliant Life is a wonderful book. It is full of love, joy, and heartbreak. Never maudlin, never manipulative, it gives us a young man who finds joy in life, even in the grimmest moments. Areum may not have lived long, but he was more alive than most.
I’ll be honest, when I began I was worried that it would be another disease-of-the-month book that just plays on our sympathies, but it is not. There is no emotional manipulation, instead, Areum focuses on what is good, what is joyful. Even when he might rightfully be outraged by betrayal, he finds goodness in what he learned, how even betrayal enriched his experience of life.
Read this book. It’s short, beautiful, and rich with the glories of living.
I received an ARC of My Brilliant Life from the publisher through Shelf Awareness.