A how-to guide to facing death and living life by the popular novelist and cancer survivor.
When Hoffman (The Dovekeepers, 2011, etc.) received the diagnosis about her lump, her immediate response was denial: “I was busy after all, the mother of two young sons, caring for my ill mother, involved in my writing. My most recent novel, Here on Earth, had been chosen as an Oprah Book Club Choice; an earlier novel, Practical Magic, was being filmed in California with Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. I didn’t have time to be ill.” Once she came to terms with the fact that disease doesn’t necessarily strike at our convenience, she was able to deal directly with her situation, put her life in perspective and get her priorities in order. She was one of the lucky ones—15 years later, she remains very much alive and productive, capable of writing the book that might have helped her when the shock of cancer blindsided her. “In many ways I wrote Survival Lessons for myself to remind myself of the beauty of life, something that’s all too easy to overlook during the crisis of illness or loss,” she writes. Though Hoffman has earned renown as a talented writer, this isn’t really a writerly book, but more like conversational advice from a close friend. Most of the advice is common sense, yet the element of choice is crucial when faced with a fate that seems beyond your control. You can choose how to respond and put your crisis in perspective: “Good fortune and bad luck are always tied together with invisible, unbreakable thread.” Hoffman ends with words of wisdom from her oncologist, who advised that, “cancer didn’t have to be my entire novel. It was just a chapter.” In other words, this too shall pass.
A lightweight but heartening book.