Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What We Have by Amy Boesky

Happy holidays to everyone! I can't believe we're midway through December already. My reading has slowed to a crawl, mostly due to a book called The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. (Are the rumors about Stieg Larsson not actually writing this one true? I'd believe it.) But that's a story for another time.

I did want to take a second to blog about an excellent medical memoir called What We Have: A Family's Inspiring Story about Love, Loss, and Survival by Amy Boesky. Boesky, a literature professor at Boston College, tells the story of her family's battle with gene-linked ovarian and breast cancer. It sounds like a sad book, but it really isn't, mostly due to Boesky's self-deprecating narrative style. She's like a best friend, filling you in on her life, particularly the year 1993-1994 when amazing and significant events occurred. This reader admires her matter-of-fact analysis of her life as a single woman, her good-natured squabbles with her two sisters and mother. The year brings love, marriage, birth, and illness to everyone in her family. It's like life times ten for the Boesky clan. The author endures all, with humor tinged by anxiety (another battle). Time ticks along, and Boesky, retelling the story from a late 2000s vantage point, is able to nudge the reader to see what's important, to take note of what really matters: not illness or death, but the lessons learned from her mother and sisters in 1994. We all have years like these--mine, coincidentally, was 1994 also, the year my mother died. Our 1994s are to be endured and mined for nuggets when we feel strong again. It's good to remember that Boesky titled her book What We Have instead of what we haven't.