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A Whole New Life: An Illness and a Healing

Languages Spoken: english
Okay, in general we're not big fans of the blow-by-blow cancer memoir. But this is Reynolds Price we're talking about here--award-winning novelist and professor at Duke University' with numerous poems' stories and plays to his credit (not to mention song lyrics for James Taylor). In 1984, he found a 10-inch-long tumor in his spinal cord--"the eel," as he called it. Three surgeries and radiation therapy arrested the growth, but left him unable to walk and in enormous pain.

Most of the book is about his medical journey; itself a testament to human perseverance. But the last chapter alone is worth the price of the whole book: his brutally frank views on chronic illness as a state of being and his unflinching (and frequently amusing, if you've ever been on the patient's side of things) examination of the change in how people interacted with him. Finally, he offers suggestions for others on "how to absorb the staggering but not-quite-lethal blow of a fist that ends your former life and offers you nothing by way of a new life that you can begin to think of wanting, though you clearly have to go on feeding your gimped-up body and roofing the space above your bed." His suggestions are well worth considering, especially given his final conclusion: "I've yet to watch another life that seems to have brought more pleasure to its owner than mine has to me."
 - Planet Cancer