WEST OF THE MOON by Jonathan Nasaw


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Nasaw's (Easy Walking) first book in 12 years, and well worth the wait: a lovely and absolutely gut-wrenching story of a five-year-old boy battling cancer. Nurse Tom Straw is a tall, droopy Vietnam vet who recharges himself spiritually with the Grateful Dead, and now helps run a hospice (""Roomers with Tumors"") in San Francisco. Tom himself has lost a leg to a cancer that is now in remission. His newest patient is young Danny Dawson, who arrives one afternoon after fierce bouts with chemotherapy, ""his skin sallow and shiny as cheese."" With him is his strong-willed mother, Anne, who has decided that no more of the unsuccessful treatments will be allowed--Danny is to be left to die in peace, with as much comfort and dignity as possible. For a while Danny regains strength, and has the run of the place--he meets young Toni, dying of cancer, and her lover Bea, who refuses to leave her side, and who eventually commits suicide the night of Toni's death. But Danny's pompous, stuffed-shirt lawyer father, Pierce (Anne's ex-lover), goes to court to force Anne to continue chemotherapy, and Anne and Tom (now romantically involved) sneak Danny away to another hospice in the Bigfoot Mountains. There, the kindly Dr. Krebbs teaches Danny the art of Mental Imaging--his white cells rallying to fight off the invading cancer--but it's too late: Danny has begun, both in dreams and reality, to accept his impending death. Nasaw has managed a considerable accomplishment: a book about death (and the way we view death today) that is deeply poignant, yet somehow levelheaded and cleareyed at the same time. All in all, a fierce, powerfully concerned novel.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Watts