'The chapter titles are conditional.
Chapters 1-3. Hazel and Gus Meet
Hazel Lancaster lived in a small Indiana town.
The girl had thyroid cancer and metastases to her lungs. Hazel breathed with an oxygen tank and was hooked up to a large oxygen concentrator at night. She rarely left the house, lay in bed and read the same book. The girl's mother thought her daughter was depressed and persuaded her to attend a support group that met in the basement of the city's Episcopal Church. These meetings depressed Hazel. She communicated only with Isaac, who had a rare eyeball cancer.
He had already lost one eye; now the other was at risk.
Hazel only attended the group for her parents. At one of the meetings she met Augustus Waters.
A few years ago, he was diagnosed with bone cancer and had his leg taken off up to the knee - it was replaced with a prosthesis. After that, Gus was declared BPR (no sign of cancer). Throughout the meeting, he kept his eyes on Hazel.
Gus confessed to the group that his greatest fear was oblivion. Hazel responded that oblivion is for all mankind, so we should ignore that fear. The girl had read this thought in The King's Affliction, Peter van Houten's only novel.
After the meeting, Gus invited Hazel to his house to watch a movie. At the bus stop, the girl saw Gus pull out a cigarette and was outraged: she was breathing hard, and Gus was voluntarily killing her lungs. The guy convinced Hazel that he wasn't lighting the cigarette.
It's a metaphor, here's a look: you hold deadly stuff in your teeth, but you don't give it a chance to fulfill its deadly purpose.
Hazel told Gus about herself. She was diagnosed with cancer when she was thirteen. Every treatment had been tried on her and a drug had been found that stopped the growth of metastases in her lungs for "an indefinite period of time." The girl led a relatively normal life and was in her first year of college at the community college.
Hazel had few friends. She was tirelessly taken care of by her mother. Hazel was in constant severe pain.
Gus had shelves full of prizes in his room - he had played basketball before the operation. Hazel told Gus about her favorite book, and he decided to read it.
In the evening, Hazel reread her favorite novel: a story about a girl with a rare form of cancer. The heroine of the novel was getting worse, and her mother had fallen in love with a Dutch tulip merchant whom the heroine thought was a scoundrel and called the Tulip Dutchman. Her mother and the Dutchman were about to get married, and the heroine was getting ready for a new course of treatment, and that was the end of the novel, apparently, it was not finished.
Hazel longed to know what would become of the novel's characters. She wrote to van Houten many times, but never heard back: he had moved from the United States to Holland and become a recluse. Hazel hoped he was working on a sequel, but was afraid he wouldn't get it.
Gus, too, was disappointed by the novel's uncertain ending. He managed to contact the writer by e-mail through his assistant, Lideview Vliegenthart.
Van Houten announced that he wasn't going to write anything else. On the same day, Hazel sent the writer an e-mail asking questions about the future of the novel's characters.
Isaac had surgery and was officially announced BPR. He was now healthy and blind. Before the surgery, his girlfriend had dumped him. Isaac took the breakup hard; he believed in true love that "lasts at least the rest of his life." Hazel visited his friend in the hospital.
The next day Hazel received a reply from van Houten, in which the writer refused to answer her questions: she could turn his letter into a sequel to the novel. Such things he discussed only in personal conversation, he did not intend to leave Holland and invited the girl to visit, knowing that she had terminal cancer.
Hazel did not have enough health or money for a transatlantic flight: the Lancaster family had spent all their savings on their daughter's treatment. The Ginny Foundation gave children with cancer a wish come true, but Hazel spent her wish on a trip to Disneyland.
On Saturday, Gus said he would spend his wish on a trip to Holland. Hazel's attending physician allowed the girl to fly with an adult. The family council decided that she would fly with her mother.
Gus liked Hazel, but the girl was not ready for a serious relationship. She had learned from the Internet that Gus's previous girlfriend had died of brain cancer, and she didn't want to make him suffer again. Hazel felt like a grenade about to explode, and wanted to "minimize the casualties. But she couldn't keep her parents from grief.
Chapters 7-9. Hazel's disease progresses
Hazel was admitted to the hospital because of an oxygen deficiency, where it was discovered that her lungs were full of fluid. She was admitted to the intensive care unit for six days.
People talk about the courage of cancer patients, and I don't deny that courage. <...> But don't be misled: at that moment, I would have been genuinely happy to die.
No new metastases were found in Hazel's body. When the fluid was drained from her lungs, the girl felt better.
The Ginny Foundation confirmed their trip. After getting the doctor's approval, Hazel, accompanied by her mother and Gus, traveled to Amsterdam.
Chapters 10-13. Trip to Amsterdam. Meeting the Writer
Gus's parents didn't want to let their son go to Amsterdam, but the boy insisted. On the plane, Gus confesses his love to a girl. She felt a strange, painful joy.
The flight went well. After sleeping in a hotel, Hazel went to a romantic dinner with Gus. The guy talked about his girlfriend with the brain tumor who died almost insane. Later it turned out that the dinner had already been paid for by the writer.
The meeting with Van Houten was terribly disappointing for Hazel and Gus: The writer turned out to be a boor. He refused to answer questions, declared that Hazel depended on the pity of others, and called her a side effect of evolution. Hazel left him in tears.
That same day, Gus kissed the girl for the first time. Then the first intimacy occurred between them at the hotel.
The next day, Gus confessed to Hazel that he had found new metastases. He interrupted treatment for a trip to Amsterdam, his parents were against it. The fear of oblivion returned to Gus.
Chapters 14-20. Gus's illness returns
Upon returning home, Gus began treatment. Hazel was pained to watch her beloved grow weaker by the day.
After a while, Gus ended up in intensive care, after which he could only move around in a wheelchair. The final stage of the disease had arrived.
It's damn hard to keep your dignity when the rising sun is too bright in your fading eyes.
Gus longed for the world to know about him, but he was dying in obscurity. One night Gus made his way to a gas station to buy himself a pack of cigarettes. He wanted to prove to himself that he could at least do it himself. He couldn't make it home on his own, so he called Hazel, who came and called an ambulance.
From the hospital, Gus returned "disillusioned completely and unconditionally. He was now completely dependent on painkillers.
Every person dying of cancer has their Last Good Day, when the disease recedes for a few hours. Gus spent his day with Hazel and Isaac. He asked his friends to write obituaries for him and then read them to him.
Chapters 21-25. Gus's Death
Gus died eight days after his Last Good Day.
Losing someone with whom you have memories is like losing your memory.
Van Houten, who had read about Gus' death on his social media page, arrived at the memorial service. After a difficult funeral for Hazel, the writer told her that before he died, Gus wrote to him and promised to forgive his boorish behavior if he would tell Hazel about the fate of the characters of the novel. The girl chased Van Houten away.
The next day Hazel learned from Isaac that Gus was writing some sort of sequel to her favorite book for her. She got in the car to go to Isaac's and found an intoxicated van Houten in the backseat. He admitted that his daughter, who had died of leukemia, was the prototype of the main character. He was taken aback by the appearance of Hazel dressed as the novel's heroine. The girl felt sorry for Van Houten and advised him to write another novel.
In Gus's room Hazel found nothing. Three days later, the boy's father reported finding his son's notebook with the pages torn out. Hazel thought the pages were hidden in the Episcopal church, but there was nothing there either.
The parents surrounded Hazel with their undivided attention. The girl feared they would not be able to move on after her death, but her mother admitted that she had been studying social work at the university for a year. She didn't want her daughter to know that, and she thought as if her mother was planning in advance how to live after she died. The parents swore to Hazel that they would not divorce after her death.
Hazel then decided that Gus had had time to send his manuscript to Van Houten. She wrote to Lideview, who found the manuscript and forwarded it to Hazel. It was not a sequel, but a letter. Gus asked van Houten to write a novel based on his sketches: to leave his mark on history in the form of a book about his love for Hazel. He hoped Hazel thought so, and he was not wrong: "You hope right, Augustus. You are."
The retelling is based on a translation by O. A. Myshakova.