This debut collection of biting, unsentimental and uneven monologues unfolds into the true story of one young woman’s battle with cancer.
While planning a move from Colorado, 27-year-old Luther discovers a painful lump in her left breast. She’s drifting between an unsatisfying job, recent heartbreak and plans to flee the West for New York City. The author has no family history of the disease, no other risk factors and no reason to suspect that—as she plots the next phase of her life—she is going to face overwhelming questions of mortality and a sharp, premature drift from youth brought about by cancer treatment and the uncertainties of remission. The monologues give voice to a wry, Gen-Y sensibility that is poignantly disarming—“I developed a crush on a fellow poison victim,” Luther writes of her attraction to another patient in the chemo treatment room. Still, her tone too often veers into pithy and snarky aspects of a 20-something’s glib concerns about the disease’s corporeal affects—“My hotness factor was pretty weak.” Just as the author seems to grapple with the depths of her diagnosis in the especially strong installments “I Love New York” and “Skeptical Looks,” those weighty moments devolve into increasingly vague observations about the everyday life of a cancer patient. Luther ponders soap operas, fairy tales and an orange Tic Tac, all clunky symbols of the protagonist’s slippery sense of vitality. Ultimately, her decision to deliver her experience in 19 small plays overwhelms the power of the narrative, forcing the author to cast about unsuccessfully for a dense and compelling story that might better be crafted in a book of creative nonfiction.
This collection presents a vivid, yet often simplistic, perspective on a young person’s struggle with cancer.