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 Frucht (Are You Mine?, 1993, etc.) imbues a dreary premise (woman discovers lump in breast, is diagnosed with cancer, dies) with remarkable originality and insight, leaving the reader pondering the nature of life and death. Two dramatic things happen to museum curator Isobel Albright during one week in her 40th year. First, she discovers a tiny lump in her breast. Then, a few days later, the small midwestern museum where she works burns down. As Isobel joins her fellow employees in trying to salvage the charred contents of the museum's collections, she also quietly undergoes a series of diagnostic tests that eventually reveal that her lump is malignant; even with an aggressive course of chemotherapy, she's told, she has only a ten- percent chance to live. Counseled by her best friend, Martha, who flies in from Seattle, and by Martha's dreamy, quasi-clairvoyant 19-year-old son, Hercules, who's been sleeping in Isobel's guest room for a while (and whom sensible, responsible, unmarried Isobel adores), Isobel opts to skip the chemo in favor of fully experiencing the few months that she has remaining. Approaching her death as methodically as she's approached her life, she continues her work at the museum while beginning to review her own past. But desperate longings rise to the surface nevertheless, and the bright, joyous life that Isobel might have had takes on far more vivid life in her imagination than the sweet, faded memories to which she bids farewell. The experience of dying--of giving up what was and grieving for what might have been--is extraordinarily well captured in Frucht's sometimes whimsical, often luminous prose. A unique and memorable work, marking a new level of artistry for the author.

Pub Date: July 9th, 1997
ISBN: 0-684-83507-X
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1997


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