Monday, August 9, 2010

What We Have by Amy Boesky

To be completely honest, as I write this review, I have a headache.  It is an emotional headache.  One like you get after crying for too long at the loss of a loved one.  That is exactly how I feel right now.  I am emotionally drained.  I want to call my mom and sister and tell them how much I love them.  I have already hugged my girls with a strength similar to what I did on their first days of school.  The kind of hugs that you give as much for yourself as for the recipient.  The reason for my headache, my emotions, my hugs - What We Have by Amy Boesky.

From the inside book flap:
At thirty-two, Amy Boesky thought she had it all figured out:  a wonderful new man in her life, a great job, and the (nearly) perfect home.  For once, she was almost able to shake the terrible fear that had gripped her for as long as she could remember.  All of the women in her family had died before the age of forty-five - from cancer - and she and her sisters had grown up in time's shadow.  Urgency colored every choice they made and was amplified now that each of them approached thirty-five - the deadline their doctors prescribed for having preventive surgery with the hope that they could thwart their family's medical curse.  But Amy didn't want to dwell on fear now:  she wanted to spend time with her husband, plan for a new baby, live her life.  And that's just what she did.  In a way that only someone who is so acutely aware of passing time can, sh e chose to put her anxieties aside and relish life's simple pleasures.  In What We Have, Amy shares a deeply transformative year in her family's life and invites readers to join in their joy, laughter, and grief.  Unparalleled in its optimism and wisdom, What We Have celebrates the promise of a full life, even in the face of uncertainty.
The book began like many others, an author telling about her life, her family, her story.  From the beginning, however, her story resonated a bit more than others had with me.  She has a sister that reminds me of my own.  (In fact, my sister and I found out we were pregnant for the first time on the same weekend and had our children within about 1 week of each other.  We were fortunate not to have experienced the same outcome they had.) She grew up in Michigan, not unlike myself.  She vacationed in Charlevoix, barely a stone's throw from Traverse City - my favorite family vacation spot.  She spoke of places I knew, relationships that felt like my own.  She could be me.  Her family could be mine.  All of her joy and suffering could have just as easily been anyone else's to experience, including me.

While this book is not a light, easy, beach read, it is definitely worth reading.  I started the book on Saturday night and finished it this afternoon while my girls were resting.  Once started, it immediately pulled me in.  The familial relationships were familiar, relatable.  The way that Boesky brings her knowledge of literature, time and watches into the story makes it unique and educational.  The perspectives she shares and knowledge she imparts give you more to take away from the story than you would expect.  Reading this story made me want to take one of her classes (though I am in no way an English Literature buff).  As the story ended, I asked myself what I would do if given the option to know the future.  I wondered if I would want to know.  I thought about my own children and what lies ahead for them.  Is it better to know what is coming, to plan, to be prepared?  Or is it better to live in the present, enjoy the here and now, experience the joy of life without fear or anxiety?  Whereas before I read this book, I thought I knew the answers to those questions, I now realize that those questions, and the answers we give are actually quite complicated and multi-dimensional.

I have only one negative that I can share about this book.  Boesky will mention a family member early in the book, then bring the name up again later without a reminder explanation.  While that won't bother most people, I am not a name memorizer, especially when reading a book "for fun".  I would have loved if she'd had a glossary of names that I could refer to when reading.  Since she doesn't, I recommend that you pay better attention than I did when reading this book. 

Do I recommend this book?
Yes - This was a great book that almost demands a follow-up discussion.  I think it would make a perfect book for a book club.  Doc and I will be having a childless weekend soon while our kids vacation with my parents and I'm curious to hear his thoughts on the various topics brought up in this book.  I had previously discussed the idea of going back to school to become a genetic counselor with him and this will be a good starting point for deciding if that is something I'm still interested in pursuing. 

*Disclaimer:  I received a copy of the book for review purposes.  I did not receive any additional compensation in exchange for my review.  All opinions and experiences are my own.  Others may have different views.


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