Hannan chronicles her young daughter Nadia’s struggle with cancer and the affects it has on her family.
Nadia is only 8 years old when a seemingly mundane incident—cracking her jaw on Halloween candy—reveals a harrowing condition at odds with her vigor and independent spirit: bone cancer; specifically, Ewing’s sarcoma. Often with lyrical phrasing, Hannan recalls with pitch-perfect empathy the diagnosis, construction of a medical defense and her family’s response. When she recounts her experience, years past, of witnessing her mother’s decline at the hands of a different cancer—of feeling like an outsider, torn in judgment of her own needs—the flashbacks blend cleanly into her present story. Current experiences reanimate latent memories of rejection, separation anxiety and straightforward fear. While it’s beyond argument that traumatic experiences such as a child’s health crisis will rattle strong emotions, some of these intensely self-analytical glances backward feel intrusive to the point of being off-putting; they would better serve a more sharply defined memoir. This account, while largely a memoir focused on the fits and starts of personal psychological healing, also reads as the tale of a spirited girl triumphing over her nemesis, as well as a self-help guide for families buckling under the weight of a child’s diagnosis. Eventually, a clearer track emerges: Hannan’s frustration over not seeing the reality of her pain honestly reflected in society. In that vein, some passages—such as the physical and emotional steps for cleaning a catheter—poignantly convey the scope of the experience. With chronological pliancy, Hannan steers through Nadia’s chemotherapy, surgery and healing processes, concentrating by turns on how her family provides the needed emotional support and on the child’s own swiftly changing perception of herself.
Penetrating and frequently poetic, although some self-psychoanalytic sections seem less relevant.