A loving mother of two meditates on the nature of life and death.
When poet Riggs’ (Lucky, Lucky, 2009) diagnosis of breast cancer suddenly became terminal at age 38, her view of all living things narrowed to her two sons, her strong yet fearful husband, John, and the memory of her mother, who died just months before. The author entered the fray with her doctor’s grim announcement of “one small spot” on her breast and began years of treatment for a cancerous lesion that seemed initially manageable, spread, and eventually claimed her life just this year. As breast cancer permeates her family history—even her paternal grandfather underwent a radical mastectomy in the 1970s—Riggs wasn’t completely shocked by her diagnosis, but it took time for the reality of illness to sink in, as well as the development that one of her young sons was diabetic. The author generously shares memories of her romance with John, their life together in Paris, and familial anecdotes that oscillate between tender and bittersweet. The author writes with a seamless flow and an honest, heartfelt tone; the narrative often glides into passages of gorgeous, rhythmic prose leaving no doubt about Riggs’ immense talent for poetic language. She also retains a dry, witty sense of humor throughout despite the sadness of enduring chemotherapy and its side effects, navigating advanced medical and legal directives, a mastectomy, and an incremental decline in her health. She was buoyed, however, by starting a personal cancer chronicle blog called Suspicious Country and by the words of Michel de Montaigne and Annie Dillard. Though the aggressive cancer hijacked her physically and psychologically, Riggs’ indefatigable spirit is the true heroine in this story of life and loss; even in her darkest moments, she writes, “the beautiful, vibrant, living world goes on.”
A luminous, heartbreaking symphony of wit, wisdom, pain, parenting, and perseverance against insurmountable odds.