Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Two Novels Involving Women and Cancer

In the last two days I've read two adult novels:

Anne Tyler's Digging to America is about two families in Baltimore that adopt infants from Korea. They meet in the airport lounge waiting for the baby's plane to arrive. The book takes us along with them over the next six years as their friendships develop. The Donaldson family is Caucasian American and the Yazdun family is Iranian American. The book is not so much about adoption as it is about belonging, knowing oneself and one's culture, and what it means to be American. I was a bit annoyed that everyone in the book, whether Caucasian American or Iranian American used the term "American" to mean Caucasian. The "Third Culture Kid" theme is strong and I find it quite interesting. There is also a lot about how to make and maintain friendships and the balance between being open or reserved about one's sense of self. One of the grandmothers dies of cancer in the course of the story and Bitsy Davidson-Donaldson, one of the adoptive mothers, is fighting breast cancer at the end of the book. This is Tyler's 17th novel.

Anita Diamant's Good Harbor is about two women living in a small town in Massachusetts. Kathleen is a 59 year old children's librarian undergoing radiation therapy for breast cancer and 42 year old Joyce has just bought a summer home in the village in order to work on writing a novel. They become friends and find both comfort and challenge in the development of their friendship. From reading this novel I learned something about what radiation therapy is like, which I checked out on medical sites on the web and which seems to be a pretty accurate picture. Sounds like it is not as bad as chemo. I am in that in-between stage after surgery and waiting to hear what the oncologists think I should do next in dealing with Uterine cancer. Diamant is author of The Red Tent, which I read years ago.

These books have been on my TBR list for ages. this is the first time in years, it seems, that I've had time to read something not related to graduate school or being a children's librarian. I've enjoyed both books very much. I was surprised to discover, however, that both novels involve women dealing with cancer and its treatment. I don't think I would have chosen books on that theme purposefully, but now I realize that it is actually helpful at this stage of my healing. What other really good novels involving women fighting cancer would you recommend?


Mary Lee said...

I'm just finishing up THE MIDDLE PLACE by Kelly Corrigan. It's about her breast cancer treatment year, but it's about so much more. The "middle place" is that time of life when you have kids and are the parent, but you still have your parents and revert easily to being their kid. It's about how parenting changes you, and it's about family. It's about life, and it's about what it's like to look death in the eye. She has an amazing eye for detail and great pacing/story telling.

Lone Star Ma said...

I have heard that The Middle Place is excellent but can't think of anything new to offer. Holding you in the Light, though. (And my mom, an old oncology nurse, always used to say that if you had to get a female-type cancer, to get uterine, if that is in any strange way encouraging). Holding you in the Light.

Stephanie said...

I also just read THe Middle Place and found it helpful in my own cancer journey.