Oh, you guys. YOU GUYS. Listen to me when I tell you that this book, without a doubt, is one of the best books I've read in the last few years, and I like to think I read a respectable amount. (I mean, I'm no Elizabeth, but I think I've read close to 40 books since January of this year.)
Full disclosure before we begin: I have a real soft spot for memoirs. I big-puffy-heart love memoirs. I suppose one reason I love them so much is that they're so similar to blogs (except with way better editing and cover art). And that's what draws me to them – the best ones are the ones about ordinary-ish people. Screw biographies – I don't want to hear why OTHER people thought someone was important. I want to hear from ordinary people who become extraordinary people because of the beautiful or hilarious or gripping ways they tell their stories. This book is all of those things, and Amy Boesky is undeniably extraordinary.
Amy does not have one single female relative who lived past her mid-forties. They all (yes, ALL) died of ovarian cancer. That fact alone means she has a big, fat Ovarian Cancer target sitting right on her back. She and her two sisters know what that means for them: they need to get a head start on falling in love, getting married and popping out babies so that they can all get complete hysterectomies as a preventative measure before they hit the magical age of 35, when their cancer risks skyrocket. Ovarian cancer is often asymptomatic, which means it is usually diagnosed late and five-year survival rates are shockingly low – only 45 percent.
But then something happens that changes everything, and suddenly, ovarian cancer isn't the only thing these women have to fear when it turns out that the gene they have is also responsible for causing breast cancer, too. Unfortunately, the subtitle for this book is “One Family's Inspiring Story About Love, Loss, and Survival” so while I technically won't spoil anything for you, I will tell you it isn't easy to read (also fine, maybe I also feel the need to tell you YES YOU WILL NEED KLEENEX AND LOTS OF IT). It's heartwrenching, and sometimes it feels like a suckerpunch to the gut and there are so many small tragedies surrounding the bigger tragedy, and oh, how I wanted to reach through the pages and give Amy a hug and a big plate of homemade cookies at the end of every chapter.
But the way this story is written; the beauty in her choice of words... it isn't whiny or self-important or pitiful. It is touching and meaningful and the attention to detail is breathtaking. I really felt like a part of Amy's life. Sometimes I was sure this book must be spanning thirty years because surely no one could piece together this kind of detail, but this book really only spans a few years, at most, with the major focus on one transformative year, and yet it was never tedious or slow. Quite the opposite – it was engrossing. She describes the first few months of her daughter's life in such clarity that I could feel that old frustration bubbling up inside me – you know, the way you feel when you bring that bundle of joy home and suddenly the breastfeeding goes to crap and the diapers leak all over the couch and all the kid does is scream and scream and you have no idea HOW TO SHUT IT UP and WHY DID YOU EVER DECIDE TO DO THIS IN THE FIRST PLACE? Yeah. That. Except she writes in this totally personable way; her writing feels like a long, catch-up telephone call between two old friends. I really LIKE Amy. I kind of want Amy to come over and hang out. I'll bake those cookies I mentioned! What do you say, Amy? I LIKE YOU.
I don't know; am I even doing this book justice? I am all disjointed because I don't want to give you specifics about the storyline but I want you to understand how beautifully written and inspiring it really was. (And I'm not saying that because the subtitle said it first.) This is a book that I will stand behind 100 percent. I can't imagine anyone reading it and NOT loving it. That's a hard thing to say about a storyline that involves grief and tragedy and heartache, but throughout the hard things, it is so rewarding to turn the page and watch a family grow and communicate and learn to love each other differently through challenging circumstances.
I have one copy of this book to give away! All you guys have to do is leave a comment if you'd like to read this (AND YOU WOULD LIKE TO READ THIS), and I'll choose one winner at random and will have the book sent to you courtesy of TLC Book Tours and Penguin Group. I promise you, PROMISE YOU, you don't want to miss out on this book. (And if you STILL don't believe me, you can go here to Amy's website to read an excerpt.) (Then you can go here to order it when you realize I'm so totally right.)
Edited to add: I will be closing comments (and the contest!) at noon on Monday, August 23. Thanks to everyone for all the interest and feedback!
Updated to add: