DANCING AT THE EDGE OF LIFE by Gale Warner

DANCING AT THE EDGE OF LIFE

A Memoir
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A young woman’s articulate and passionate journal of the last 13 months of her life. Warner, an award-winning poet and journalist (coauthor, with Michael Shuman, of Citizen Diplomats: Pathfinders in Soviet-American Relations and How You Can Join Them,1987), was diagnosed with lymphoma at the age of 30. Her intensely personal record of living with cancer, filling nearly a thousand handwritten pages at the time of her death, is a remarkable document. What is probably most astonishing is the spirit, the optimism with which she battled her cancer, first with chemotherapy, later with radiation therapy, and still later with a bone marrow transplant. Warner’s religious beliefs permeate her journal; to categorize them is impossible, even for her (she entered “private” on a hospital form requesting such information) but the phrase “earth-based spirituality” probably comes close. A nature lover and an active environmentalist, she saw her cancer-invaded body as a metaphor for the earth: She likened the tumor growing in her chest to “Los Angeles suburban growth,” and when her breath came in wheezes, she thought of “the earth being strangled by overpopulation.” A close observer both of the natural world and of her own body, she described herself unsparingly yet uncomplainingly as “ripening and aging like a fruit” as radiation took its toll, and she visualized the ordeal of a bone marrow transplant as a ritual of purification involving the mythic elements of water, fire, air, and earth, leading to a rebirth. The nature of evil, disease, healing, love, creativity, prayer, fear, pain, dying, death, and reincarnation--Warner recorded her thoughts on all of these. Three days before she died, she turned her journals over to her husband, who, in a brief afterword, recounts her final hours. A powerful account of a life fully lived and a death bravely faced.

Pub Date: June 10th, 1998
ISBN: 0-7868-6392-7
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Hyperion
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1998