A cancer memoir that broadens into the realms of metaphysics and personal growth.
The autobiographical narrative at the heart of Collins’ nonfiction debut begins in 1994 when she noticed a lump in one of her breasts. Tests revealed growths, and doctors suggested a mastectomy followed by aggressive sessions of chemotherapy. There followed a prolonged period of recovery in what she refers to as “The Cell”—a room in her home where, initially, she was nearly immobilized. In the long lonely intervals of stillness in the Cell, she began to access a deeper “Awareness,” which taught her that her illness, while painful, could be used to help others learn compassion. Faced with an inhospitable welcome back to her old job, she got a new job; here, her narrative expands into accounts of the supernatural. Some of this is more than a little dubious; for instance, she sees a glowing disc beside the sun and wonders whether it might be an alien spaceship (she references Erich Von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods). She comes to seek hawks as shamanistic shape-shifters, and she begins to see the divine in everything around her. There follows the kinds of dreams and visions that are typical features in New Age/spiritualist writing, and Collins writes about it all with an open-hearted clarity. Her accounts of her various spiritual adventures are related with infectious enthusiasm, and the author reliably links those adventures to a broader motivational outlook: “Compassion is the most significant gift we can give to each other, to the world, and to ourselves through self-compassion,” she writes in one such passage. “True compassion comes directly from the heart with unconditional love.” This outlook will work on readers even if they don’t know a chakra from a parka. Those readers will be caught up in this involving, unpretentious memoir.
An engaging account of a cancer survivor’s metamorphosis into greater spiritual awareness.