A woman copes with her husband’s sudden illness and the return of her own cancer in this third series installment.
Hutcheson (Beauty Full, 2014, etc.) concludes her Cancer Chronicles series with a new set of struggles that befall Penney Divan and her devoted husband, Jack. Penney, who battled a rare form of breast cancer in the previous two entries in the series, now finds herself faced with the unthinkable. Jack, while visiting his ailing mother, suddenly suffers a brain aneurysm and must undergo rigorous physical and occupational therapy to help him regain his full physical and mental functions. Penney, with the help of her two children, Ginger and Michael, stubbornly advocates for Jack’s care as much as she did for her own. She has him moved to a long-term acute-care facility despite his doctors’ pessimism, and the family must adjust to his mental and emotional changes while he recovers. On top of all this, Penney is shocked when she finds out that her cancer has recurred. After so much struggle and strife, she must decide how to combat the disease again. Overall, Hutcheson certainly portrays the struggles of coping with cancer very vividly. In this book, Penney’s determined attempts to keep working as a high school principal and her feelings about her changing body definitely ring true. However, most of the other characters feel a little flat, as they often serve as mouthpieces for particular agendas rather than acting as fully formed, three-dimensional people. This is particularly true for the doctors whom Penney encounters; with one or two exceptions, they’re all rude and abrupt, dismissive of her opinions, and say things such as, “It is best to let the experts do their job” when she tries to speak up for herself. Although such portrayals may well be rooted in reality, the act of depicting every single medical practitioner this way causes them all to blend together and feel like cartoonish villains. That said, this book, though fictional, may ultimately work best as a primer or guide for readers going through experiences like Penney’s.
A heartfelt, if uneven, meditation on survival.