So, what is the purpose behind wanting to publish this book? Naturally, it’s to achieve great fame and fortune. Wait . . . what? What’s that you say? I’d be better off joining the cast of the next big reality TV show? Real Cancer Moms Versus Real Housewives?
Truth be told, I never sat down at my computer and said, “Wow, that was really something; I should write a book about it.” The writing just happened. In a day-to-day and moment-by-moment kind of way. It was necessary, first to share the actual information but ultimately for me to grapple with all that had befallen us.
Now I know that “therapy writing,” while helpful to the individual, does not necessarily produce great literature. And I know that my story, Austin’s story, is not unique in the world of pediatric cancer. Countless families go through all the same drama that we did every single day. Lots and lots of people have stunning and sometimes tragic and sometimes miracluous things that happen to them (and some of us have all three). And not all those people should write books. The conventional wisdom about memoir is that it has to be both a fascinating story and well written. And I do believe this achieves that.
I love to read. Mostly fiction but also memoir and narrative non-fiction. I know exactly my kind of book — and I bet some of you will agree wholeheartedly, nodding your head at every title listed below, while others of you think, “Um, really?” I like The Time Traveler’s Wife and Bel Canto, Help and all of Wally Lamb. The Red Tent, The Secret Life of Bees and Water for Elephants (all classic Oprah fare). The very best books I’ve ever read, although by far the most disturbing, are Fall On Your Knees and The Way The Crow Flies, both by Anne-Marie McDonald. I like memoir: The Middle Place, A Long Way Gone, Always Running (a great LA gang story that I read while teaching in Compton), Eat Pray Love. I like narrative non-fiction (still has to feel like a story) like Three Cups of Tea and (my current) The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I love to read.
And I have to tell you (and I don’t mean to sound like I think I’m the best thing since sliced bread) but when I read through some of my pages, I sit back and say, “Damn, that is good.” I love it. I want to read more (and I know exactly what’s going to happen!). So I guess in part I want to publish this book simply because I think readers like me will really like it.
But obviously there are themes — and therefore messages — underlying all I write: a sense of strength and hope and conviction; carrying on even when you can’t see the end; finding and truly appreciating all the good that lies amidst all the bad. It’s about the ordinary, about the small moments of life that make it beautiful. I think there is a clear message to be learned by what we’ve been through — that you are stronger than you think you are, that hope is stronger than you think it is, that love and family trump all. And that laughter helps.
It’s not just a cancer story. It’s a mothering story and a parenting story and a love story. A great big public declaration of a mother’s love for her sick son, her healthy son, her husband, the family, friends, doctors, nurses and wide community that sustains one family through its darkest hours.
Wanna read it?