by Myra MacPherson ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 1, 1999
Teacher and entrepreneur Anna Johannessen was 37 when first diagnosed with breast cancer; after a spirited, valiant eight-year battle with the disease, she died, leaving two children (ages 11 and 13), her husband, and legions of devoted friends. Journalist MacPherson (formerly of the Washington Post and the New York Times; Long Time Passing: Vietnam and the Haunted Generation, 1984, etc.) was moved to write this account after suffering losses in her own family. She spent two years following the Johannessen family during Anna's illness and here chronicles their ordeal, beginning with the initial, shocking diagnosis (like more than 70 percent of women who develop breast cancer, Anna had no genetic or other high-risk factors) and ending with Anna's eventual peaceful death at home. As recounted here, Anna tried bravely to keep control over her illness and treatment, finding an oncologist with whom she was comfortable, exploring all treatment options, including those that were experimental (her husband, a biomedical researcher, helped immeasurably in keeping her regimens at the forefront of breast cancer treatment). MacPherson pauses frequently throughout to explore issues common to families facing a similar medical crisis: difficulty finding the most effective treatment, insurance foul-ups, masculine/feminine grieving styles, children's issues, how death actually approaches, and what support can be found from outside sources such as hospices--MacPherson draws on expert views as well as her own and the Johannessens' experiences. Her close involvement with the family, however, leads to a sometimes awkward presentation--neither an uninvolved observer nor an intimate, MacPherson is nonetheless far too involved to offer clear-eyed, straightforward advice. Families actively involved in a similar heartbreaking journey don't need to read of another family's pain--rather, they'll benefit more from some more succinct, well-organized help for day-to-day survival than is presented here.
Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1999
Page Count: 384
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1998
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