Book review: 'You Can Keep Him' is a sweet tribute to young son's courage

Published: Friday, Feb. 10 2012 3:34 p.m. MST

"YOU CAN KEEP HIM," by Matt Birch, Matt Birch Publishing, $2.99, 110 pages (nf)

It's always hard to pick up a book about a child dying of cancer. It's easy to feel you know what you're in for — a sad story, heartache and tears.

So although it took some courage to approach reviewing this ebook by a father who'd lost his brave little boy, it wasn't a mistake.

The author weaves a riveting tale of a strong and active youngster whose passion for surprise and storybook heroes kept his father ducking playful blows.

"I suffered many horrifc and painful deaths at his hands. It was the best," writes Birch, of Farmington.

So when the daily headaches and minor upchucks became one too many, it was tough to take Cameron to the doctor who ran tests, looked at the results and said, "It's bad, really bad."

"The bus kept backing up and running over me," Birch recalls as he tried to digest the news of the tumor and the prospect of immediate surgery and an uncertain future. "The same bus was running over my wife."

Cameron goes into surgery and onto the chemotherapy. The story shifts from sobering emergency treatment to ongoing love and needed support.

"Baby stood by when we couldn't be there," Birch said of the stuffed, white dog that Cam depends on for unconditional love and support until almost the very end.

The story talks of feeding tubes, changing stubborn bandages, of a little boy keeping his head cocked at just the right angle to avoid excruciating pain.

It's easy to become so invested that when Birch mentions a book Cam liked so well that they used it at his funeral as the guest book, it's a bit of an emotional shock.

It's hard to realize the little hero dies. (Not to give away the ending but it's good to be prepared.)

The foreshadowing actually softens the blow. The 6-month hiatus from the demon disease doesn't last.

At some point, the story changes from fearing and preparing for the worst to accepting and dignifying the worst.

"You Can Keep Him" becomes a story of love, life and liberation coupled with faith and understanding of God's gifts.

The real Spiderman comes to visit.

There's one more spirited sword fight.

There's a toy room outfitted with the toys Cameron wanted his playmates in the cancer center to have.

There's a legacy left behind that lives on in those who loved him, those who cared for him and in this touching story.

Read it with tissues near by.

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.

Email: haddoc@desnews.com

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