Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What We Have

Amy Boesky's memoir, What We Have, chronicles a year in the life of her family - a family plagued by ovarian cancer. Boesky recalls portions of her childhood, and allows readers see the inner workings of her family - her close relationships with her parents and two sisters, growing up in 1960s Michigan. Through these remembrances it is easy to want to be a part of Boesky's life and feel as though she is a friend.
The year of which Boesky writes took place nearly two decades ago now, when Boesky was just beginning her own family. She and her husband Jacque are advancing in their careers, her sister Julie and her husband are starting a family as well. Everyone in the family is aware of the risk of developing ovarian cancer. They are previvors and the three sisters have made the educated decision to have their ovaries removed by the age of thirty five. While this deadline looms in the near future for her, their mother has already had the surgery and should be safe. However, a breast cancer diagnosis, which was initially treated as a very curable disease, turns out to be an aggressive form, resistant to chemotherapy drugs. When Boesky and her family receive information about their mother and her family members affected by ovarian cancer after her mother's passing, they are not surprised to know that they are at risk for genetically transmitted ovarian cancer. That they also run a risk of developing genetically transmitted breast cancer is surprising. It turns out their mother was not really safe at all.

Now it is up to Boesky and her siblings to determine if they would like to know if they carry the genes that may give them this deadly disease or not.

What We Have was such a superbly written memoir, something I marveled at while reading. It is obvious that Boesky has made a career in literature and the craft of writing. There are many layers to individuals and families and the relationships within, all of which she was able to convey to readers, giving an intimate and accurate look at one family. The decisions previvors must make are also based on individual beliefs, personalities and wishes, another aspect Boesky did well to explain as she and her sisters looked to their future and that of their children.

I'm a lover of memoirs, it is true. This one was a wonderful reading experience. Hard to put down, full of ways in which I felt connected to the author and her family.


Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I so want to read this memoir. Great review Tina

marnesandnoble said...

We really do read the same books! I loved this book and wish I had reviewed it right away. I live in DC so I enjoyed the stories of Boesky living and teaching at Georgetown. She is clearly a talented story-teller.