Emery’s debut novel draws readers into a story of cancer, desperation and wild hope.
After Anastasia “Stacia” Uqualla receives a diagnosis of ovarian cancer—the same disease that killed her mother—she leaves her controlling husband, Evan. She bolts for Las Vegas, to live what she thinks was her mother’s greatest dream, but she soon finds out that her mother and husband were keeping secrets from her. As she struggles to unravel the lies and live her remaining life to the fullest, she muses that “[i]nstead of coming to terms with my death, my experiences had only increased my will to live.” She visits the tribe that her Native American mother had once urged her to abandon, treks halfway across the world to visit her long-lost first love and flees from the uneasy prospect of a new romance; after all, she thinks, who could love a dying woman? Emery is a rare author who infuses her characters and settings with just the right amount of detail to make them realistic while still moving the plot along at a lively clip. Stacia’s quirks, from her adoration of the Italian Renaissance painter Botticelli’s work to her impulsive decision to hop a plane to Africa after seeing The Lion King, are all believable—worthy of sympathy but never treacly. The supporting characters are similarly irregular and three-dimensional and only rarely predictable. Although the book contains a few minor errors (such as the phrase “laughing stalk” instead of “laughing stock”), they won’t distract readers from Stacia’s unexpected joy as she finally charts her own course through life.
An engaging novel about a woman making her final exit on her own terms.