Had it not been for the reality TV series RPA (Royal Prince Alfred) I would have had no idea who Gail O'Brien was, yet upon seeing this book I knew that I wanted to read it. In many respects Gail O'Brien is a normal Australian woman - a physiotherapist, wife, mother - but her life over the past decade or so has been quite extraordinary and it is wonderful that her story has been told.
Gail's late husband Professor Chris O'Brien was a head and neck surgeon at RPA in Sydney. When the reality show about the hospital came onto our screens back in the 1990s Chris immediately became a viewer favourite not only because of his obvious skill as a doctor but also for the warmth and empathy he displayed to his patients.
Written in tandem with her daughter Juliette, This is Gail follows Gail's journey first as a girlfriend, then wife of a surgeon and as a mother and a carer. It highlights the relentless pressure of living with somebody with a terminal illness but also the beauty and special moments that can arise in this most awful of circumstances.
Although this is a sad book, it as also a celebration of Chris and Gail's life together. I like that it does not shy away from the sheer awfulness of what they went through, but also highlights how their lives were enriched in unexpected ways as they negotiated their way through a terminal illness.
Despite the sad subject matter, This Is Gail is not a hard book to read. The writing style is engaging and somehow manages to be uplifting as well as thought provoking.