An appealing, sharply self-inquisitive remembrance.

FINE, THANKS

A breast cancer survivor recounts her arduous journey in this debut memoir.

Before her diagnosis in 2010, attorney Dunnewold thought of herself as the “queen of compliance”—she didn’t smoke or “fool around,” and she practiced yoga and ate organic food. Her worst vices, she says, were “expensive chocolate and Grey’s Anatomy.” So in July 2010, when she discovered a “weirdly grainy area” in her breast, she wasn’t immediately worried. She was later told that she had “several tumors on both sides” and that her only option was a bilateral mastectomy. In the space of two years, Dunnewold came to terms with the fact that she had stage 3 cancer while enduring lifesaving surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, followed by reconstructive procedures. Her memoir candidly examines all aspects of her fight against breast cancer, from her first mammogram to nipple reconstruction and areola tattooing, and she relates her story with a probing, dry wit. For example, she tells of writing an email with the subject line “A Bump in the Road,” announcing to acquaintances she had cancer, and she confides, “I did not entitle my email ‘A Bump in the Boob,’ although I was tempted.” This dark sense of humor may not be to everyone’s taste, but it successfully counterbalances the unsettling facts that the author faces head-on: “Don’t think you’re so special,” she writes. “Don’t think you’re exempt.” What sets Dunnewold’s memoir apart from others of a similar nature is that it directly addresses the question “Why me?” and presents this line of thought as being unhelpful: “Sometimes what happens to us is a mystery. But we can take credit for how we respond.” Her writing also sparkles with clarity and wisdom throughout: “You want to know what lessons cancer taught me? Here’s The Big One: Life is too short to finish War and Peace.” Overall, this book may provide a valuable lifeline to those facing similar challenges.

An appealing, sharply self-inquisitive remembrance.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68433-378-3

Page Count: 217

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2019

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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