Tag: Memoirs

Love and Laughter in the Time of Chemotherapy

Author: Manjusha Pawagi
To Be Published: October 10, 2017
288 pages

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: September 20-29, 2017
Jessica’s Rating: 4 stars

Book Description from Goodreads:

Manjusha Pawagi, a successful family court judge, has written a not-so-typical memoir about her experience with cancer. Wryly funny and stubbornly hopeful, this is her quirky take on what it’s like to face your own mortality when, to be honest, you thought you’d live forever. She describes how even the darkest moments of life can be made worse with roommates; details how much determination it takes to ignore the statistics; and answers the age-old question: what does it take to get a banana popsicle around here?

Jessica’s Review:

The title and cover of Love and Laughter in the Time of Chemotherapy caught my attention. The title is catchy and I wondered why does the cover have a popsicle?  This is a candid memoir of Manjusha Pawagi. A Canadian judge who was born in India, she tells it like it is as she gives you her experience with leukemia.  She leaves no tale untold, all the way down to the description of the ileostomy bags.

She is very detailed in her journey as she faces her many fears. My husband battled cancer as a teenager and this gives me an idea of what he went through.  He fought a different cancer than Pawagi had, but it gives the reader an idea of the struggle all cancer patients go through.  A cancer ward has to be a very difficult place to work and visit.

Pawagi is a minority of South Asian descent and you learn how hard it is to find a match for stem cells as according to the memoir ¾ of donors are Caucasian.  She says that only 4% of donors are South Asian and most likely her donor would have to come from the Indian state of Maharashtra where she is from.  Finding a donor is difficult in the first place and many people wait and unfortunately never find their match. Being a minority makes it more difficult. More people should sign up to be donors!

Pawagi also gives humor in this memoir.  She talks about wanting a banana popsicle (so that’s where the cover comes in!) and still eating bacon.  She feels that if she stops eating bacon, then cancer wins.  We can’t let that happen, keep eating and enjoying bacon!

Please note that Pawagi’s journey is not a faith based journey.  She is an atheist and this does not change.  She is convinced that she will go to Heaven: ‘I’m an atheist too, but I’m  firmly convinced that if I turn out to be wrong and there is a God, and all the accompanying heaven/hell thing, I am definitely going to heaven. I have no theological basis for this, but I know it would be ridiculously unfair if I were barred because of what I consider to be a mere technicality, which I equate to the minor procedural irregularities I see in court all the time, and which I either ignore or patch up after the fact in some way. Because, while I do not believe in God, I do believe in justice’ (Chapter Seven). As a believer myself, I can’t agree with her thoughts on this issue.  But this is her memoir to tell as she sees fit and she is free to believe or not believe as she wishes.

Earlier in her book she talks about her son’s journal in school and that he took it seriously and wrote down everything he did.  He wrote so much that the teacher set a three page a week limit on the journals and would stop reading at three pages no matter how much was written.  She says:  ‘I will try not to inflict so much on my own readers, but just like Jack’s teacher, you are free to stop reading at any point (Chapter Five).  I like her and her attitude, though it is hard to say I ‘enjoyed’ her memoir as it is a about a battle with cancer.

Love and Laughter in the Time of Chemotherapy is recommended.

Thank you to NetGalley and Second Story Press for granting me an e-arc copy!

The Middle Place


Author: Kelly Corrigan
269 pages in Paperback

Published: December 23, 2008
Dates Read: August 30- September 7, 2016

My Rating: 2.5 Stars

Book Summary from Amazon:

For Kelly Corrigan, family is everything. At thirty-six, she had a marriage that worked, two funny, active kids, and a weekly newspaper column. But even as a thriving adult, Kelly still saw herself as the daughter of garrulous Irish-American charmer George Corrigan. She was living deep within what she calls the Middle Place–“that sliver of time when parenthood and childhood overlap”–comfortably wedged between her adult duties and her parents’ care. But Kelly is abruptly shoved into coming-of-age when she finds a lump in her breast–and gets the diagnosis no one wants to hear. When George, too, learns that he has late-stage cancer, it is Kelly’s turn to take care of the man who had always taken care of her–and to show us a woman who finally takes the leap and grows up.

Kelly Corrigan is a natural-born storyteller, a gift you quickly recognize as her father’s legacy, and her stories are rich with everyday details. She captures the beat of an ordinary life and the tender, sometimes fractious moments that bind families together. Rueful and honest, Kelly is the prized friend who will tell you her darkest, lowest, screwiest thoughts, and then later dance on the coffee table at your party.

Funny yet heart-wrenching, The Middle Place is about being a parent and a child at the same time. It is about the special double-vision you get when you are standing with one foot in each place. It is about the family you make and the family you came from–and locating, navigating, and finally celebrating the place where they meet. It is about reaching for life with both hands–and finding it.

My Review:

Kelly Corrigan’s title of her memoir is The Middle Place; which is where she feels she is in life when this journey began. She is in that time between being someone’s child and being someone’s parent. I am the age Kelly is when she discovers the lump in her breast that ends up being cancer.

From the description of the novel, I expected to read more on her journey of going through the cancer treatments. Yes we do get some of that, but then her father gets his third occurrence of cancer and the book becomes more about her being concerned about losing her father. That may have been her coping mechanism to get through her cancer. But being her age, I wanted more of her story. Yes, this is her story to tell in her way, but it seems I wanted a different book than what I got.

In some ways she also became unlikeable. Again, this was most likely her coping mechanism. In one point of the novel she is angry with her husband for “talking to his parents too much” according to her:

“I’m glad you’re bringing your cell. If you get bored, you can call your parents again.” (Page 236)
“It bugs me that you’re always calling your parents,” (Page 237)

Then a couple of pages later, she is calling her parents to check on her dad and her girls. At one point her dad says:

“Lovey! I better let you go! You can’t spend your vacation on the phone with us!” (Page 240)

Isn’t this what you just got upset with your husband about?

Some reviewers have issues with the language she uses. Again, this is her story to tell in the way she will tell it. There was also no big revelation at the end. She didn’t discover faith as some would have liked. This is a memoir and sometimes we don’t get what we want as we do with with fiction books.

Overall, I can’t recommend this book. It just wasn’t for me.


A Mother’s Reckoning




A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy
Author: Sue Klebold
336 Pages in Hardback

Published: February 15, 2016
Dates Read: May 24- June 7, 2016

My Rating: 4 Stars


Book Summary from Amazon:

On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Over the course of minutes, they would kill twelve students and a teacher and wound twenty-four others before taking their own lives.

For the last sixteen years, Sue Klebold, Dylan’s mother, has lived with the indescribable grief and shame of that day. How could her child, the promising young man she had loved and raised, be responsible for such horror? And how, as his mother, had she not known something was wrong? Were there subtle signs she had missed? What, if anything, could she have done differently?

These are questions that Klebold has grappled with every day since the Columbine tragedy. In A Mother’s Reckoning, she chronicles with unflinching honesty her journey as a mother trying to come to terms with the incomprehensible. In the hope that the insights and understanding she has gained may help other families recognize when a child is in distress, she tells her story in full, drawing upon her personal journals, the videos and writings that Dylan left behind, and on countless interviews with mental health experts.

Filled with hard-won wisdom and compassion, A Mother’s Reckoning is a powerful and haunting book that sheds light on one of the most pressing issues of our time. And with fresh wounds from the recent Newtown and Charleston shootings, never has the need for understanding been more urgent.

All author profits from the book will be donated to research and to charitable organizations focusing on mental health issues.

My review:

Wow. What a heart breaking and at times hard to read book. But I made it through it. It is also hard to review. It is hard to review a book that is about something so tragic in so many way.  All those lives lost, including Sue Klebold’s son.  Sue Klebold gives her story of that fateful day at Columbine High School. You can feel her anguish and sadness at first losing her son to suicide and coming to the realization of what Dylan did.

You can see the whole “hindsight is 20/20” realizations she has afterward. And you can see how much it hurts.

The book also deals a lot with raising awareness on suicide and mental health, which she calls brain health and brain illness, with good reasons.

This book is recommended!