Kirkus Reviews QR Code
PICASSO'S WOMAN by Rosalind MacPhee


A Breast Cancer Story

by Rosalind MacPhee

Pub Date: May 1st, 1996
ISBN: 1-56836-138-6
Publisher: Kodansha

Published in Canada in slightly different form in 1994, this absorbing story of a resourceful and courageous woman learning to live with breast cancer received the Canadian Authors Association Literary Award. A paramedic trained to take control in critical situations, an ocean kayaker accustomed to pushing herself to the limits, and a poet with a gift for self-expression, MacPhee seems better equipped than most women both to face her frightening ordeal and to share the experience with others. What happened to her is unfortunately all too common today, but her account of it is uncommonly good. In 1991 she discovered a lump in her right breast; a biopsy showed the lump to be malignant. A few months later, while still recovering from a mastectomy, she discovered a lump in her left breast, and a lumpectomy was performed. MacPhee writes honestly and powerfully about the impact of cancer on herself, her family—she and her husband have two teenage daughters—and her community of women friends. Friends play an important role in MacPhee's life, and the withdrawal of one of her closest ones during this time is especially difficult for her to accept. Her attitude toward her prosthesis, her ``boob,'' as she derisively calls it, and her eventual discarding of it reveal much about the importance of self-image and the difficulties of coming to terms with a drastically altered body. Indeed, the present work's title expresses the kinship MacPhee feels with one of Picasso's Cubist paintings of a woman with rearranged body parts. An afterword by Kathy LaTour, a breast cancer activist and survivor, reveals that MacPhee has had a recurrence of cancer and is working on a follow-up book, tentatively titled ``Any Day Above Ground Is a Good One.'' Any book from MacPhee promises equally to be a good one.