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What it means to be really alive in Rowan Coleman’s “We Are All Made Of Stars”

I’ve always been a big believer in the notion that some of the best things can be found in the most unexpected places; the beautiful things that seemingly hit us out of nowhere, in the places we’d least expect to find them. For me, this was the case when I stumbled across Rowan Coleman’s We Are All Made Of Stars.

My boyfriend, Ryan, had surprised me with an impromptu, magical road trip through the snowy, niveous mountains of Glencoe where the tops of the mountains kissed the bottom of soft clouds before disappearing into them entirely. It was there, on the snow-caked roads of Tyndrum that led to the picturesque landscape, that we stopped at a little shop called The Green Welly Stop.

It was a shop that had everything for locals – groceries for a light shop, toys for children, warm and thermal clothes for hitch hikers and mountain climbers, and, of course, one lone bookstand full of stories for bookworms like me. I fell in love with the title immediately and I had to get it. And since it turned out to be the most life-affirming, hopeful novels I’ve read to date, I’m so glad that I did.

Stella Carey exists in a world of night. Married to an ex-soldier, she leaves the house every evening as Vincent locks himself away, along with the scars and the secrets he carries.

During her nursing shifts, Stella writes letters for her patients to their loved ones – some full of humour, love and practical advice, others steeped in regret – and promises to post these messages after their deaths.

Until one night Stella writes the letter that could give her patient one last chance at redemption, if she delivers it in time…

As I said, it was the title of We Are All Made Of Stars that really drew me in. It’s what most people who know me would call a ‘typical Paige book’, and I was curious about the meaning behind it. I was not disappointed. The book’s title pays homage to the idea that all the energy inside us, everything that makes up who we are, is made of stardust.

If you think about the first law of thermodynamics, it explains that none of the energy in the world is created and, also, none is destroyed. By this logic, every part of us now was once a part of some other thing, and if we go backwards through time, life – all life, the planet, me, you reading this now – were born from the death of a star millions of billions of years ago. A star so big and beautiful and bright that it was probably closer to a supernova than it was a star, and when that star died, it became part of the universe again. Which means when we die, or cross that line, we will never cease to exist, but rather every part of us now, every particle, will go on to be a part of something else. Maybe live as a dragonfish, or grow through the ground into something beautiful to be admired, or burn in our own supernova millions of years from now.

Either way, when we cross that line to discover what lies beyond life on this planet, a part of us will always exist. Even if that part goes back up into the sky to become stars once again. Which means people never really leave us, and their essence will hover around us, forever.

This beautiful message is just part of what makes We Are All Made Of Stars so special. It is one of the most poignant, life affirming books I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, and each character goes through something that not only changes who they are at their core, but wakes them up and shows them what it is they have and need that makes them feel most alive in life.

It also reminds us about what it is that makes life worth living. Falling in love, fighting for the people we love, being kind and honourable to those around us, doing the things that make us feel alive… that’s the point. That’s the entire point of being alive. Yes, life can deal a sometimes cruel and crappy hand. We can’t change that. But what we can do is change how we react to it, how we let it affect us.

“Maybe knowing what it is that you want, the future that you have been fighting for, is what it will take to make it happen. It’s easy to admit defeat and let go of people you love, or dreams you have, because it’s difficult. Fighting for them is what takes courage. Fighting for them is what matters.”

― Rowan Coleman, We Are All Made Of Stars

If we fight for the things and people we love, for our dreams and our hopes and the things that make us feel most alive in this world, then that constitutes as a well lived life. We don’t need to change the lives of everyone in world, just touching the lives of the people around us is enough. That way, even in death, they never really leave us, and we never leave them.

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