Ironic, But Explaining That Is Spoilery. My singular biggest takeaway from this book is just how *HIGHLY* ironic it turns out to be. But explaining that involves discussing specifics of the ending of the book, and thus isn’t something I’m going to do in a review. Just not my style. At all.
What I *can* tell you about this book is that for the most part, you’ve got your expected Catherine McKenzie level mystery here. By which I mean there will be all kinds of twists and turns. Secrets all over the place – including some revealed only in the final pages. Solid pacing. A compelling introduction. And a general sense after reading it of “WOW”/ “WTF”. If you’re looking for that kind of book, I’ve yet to be let down with anything I’ve read from this author… including this very book. Very much recommended.
And here’s what I had to say about the book on Goodreads:
Strong Look At Often Unexplored Topics. Glancing through the other reviews (as I generally do before writing my own, fwiw), it seems that so many people miss what I happen to see as the overall point of the book: Exploring how individuals can find themselves again and discover what they feel is worth keeping in the face of overwhelming tragedy. Here, McLaren uses three primary characters: A mother who has “survived” cancer, including a mastectomy and radical hysterectomy, only to have to piece back together her sense of self and whether she is still attractive. (A battle, it seems, that the author herself went through in real life.) A father who began working as a cop in order to provide for his then-young family, and who was one of the first responders shifting through the rubble behind Timothy McVeigh trying to save as many people as possible after the bombing of the Alfred P Murray Federal Building in Oklahoma City – a tragedy that still haunts him all these decades later, at the end of his career. And a daughter who learns that her mother’s cancer is to some degree hereditary, causing her to question any future she may have even as she graduates high school.
In these situations, McLaren points to tragedies and situations that are relatable to many of us, and paints a story that even across roughly 500 books read in under three years, I’ve rarely if ever seen. A story of survival (which is common, in and of itself) and of finding love (also common), but these particular wrinkles of the overall story have often been overshadowed in the stories by other, “flashier” topics.
While I am genuinely sorry that the author lived through at least some of this, I am exceedingly happy that she was able to use those real life experiences to craft this tale in this way. It is a story that needed to be told, and it is a story that needs to be read by far too many. And for that reason, it is a story that is very much recommended.
Death… Is The Ultimate Road Trip. This is one hilarious book that will leave you in tears – even as it ends exactly the way it must. A trippy road trip through space and time at the edge of the Millenium, this is one of those random, stoner-esque comedies with soul that makes you laugh out loud so very often and yet makes you fall in love with the characters at the same time. Truly an excellent, feel-good work and a great short-ish (under 300 page) escape for the holiday season. Very much recommended.
The Myth Of (Cancer) Experience. This book actually does a phenomenal job of using both hard data and anecdotal case studies to show what the current state of cancer research and treatment is – and why it is costing us far too much in both lives and dollars. This is a cancer doc/ researcher who has been in the field longer than this reader has been alive, and yet she attacks the problem in a way that genuinely makes sense: if cancer is effectively a group of cells that begin replicating uncontrollably, the best way to eliminate this phenomenon is to detect these cells as early as possible and eliminate them before they become problematic. Using several patient case studies – including her husband, who apparently started out as her boss, and her daughter’s best friend among them – Raza does an excellent job of providing names and faces (yes, the book has pictures of the patients as well) to go along with the alarming yet decently documented data. (Roughly 18% of the book is bibliography, which is perhaps a touch low – 25-30% is more typical – but is better than one might expect from such a case study driven narrative.) Ultimately this book actually makes the case for The Myth of Experience better than the authors of the book by that title did, which is actually fairly interesting to this reader. 🙂 And the Urdu poetry (with English translations as well) was a nice touch to lighten a text that could otherwise be a bit dreary. Very much recommended.