21 September 2009

Review: Between Me and the River by Carrie Host

Carrie Host was just shy of 40 years old when she got the news that many of us fear most. She had cancer—and not just any cancer but carcinoid tumors, which are resistant to both chemotherapy and radiation. Surgery was the only answer, but Host's body was riddled with many small cancerous growths throughout her abdomen and even on her lungs.

Between Me and the River is an almost daily look at Host's 3.5-year journey from pain and misdiagnosis to multiple surgeries and hospitalizations to the news that she was likely cancer free. As we follow her to Mayo Clinic, acupuncturists, nutritionists, and support groups, we learn how cancer, while never welcome, can still provide life lessons.

The river as a metaphor for a cancer-focused life works well and helps us form a clear picture of the steps along the way: being swept up in the current, drowning, going over the falls, and even hitting calm spots when floating comfortably seems possible. Most of the chapters end with a paragraph describing personal insights, finding hope, or coping emotionally. The book concludes with a short list of resources.

It is evident in her memoir that Host was luckier than many cancer patients: She had siblings and parents who could leave their own homes to help with her baby and older children, she had the money and resources to visit multiple doctors in multiple states, and she had the means to hire someone to help out at home. I am not implying that Host's story is not honest, difficult, and inspirational but that she had a head start over many families who must deal with cancer with far less support, adequate healthcare insurance, and money.

Host has a clear and easy style, even when writing about the most emotional and difficult parts of her life. The book, however, could have used a tighter copyedit, I noticed punctuation and grammar errors scattered throughout; fortunately, these did not take away from my overall connection with Host's story.

Published by Harlequin, 2009
ISBN-13: 9780373892143
Challenges: 999, 100+
YTD: 70
Rating: B−


Margot at Joyfully Retired 9/21/09, 9:43 AM  

I just started reading this book. I'm already caught up in the story. I appreciate your honest review.

Julie P. 9/21/09, 10:24 AM  

I'm disappointed to hear that there are some errors in the book. I would expect more. At least, it didn't get in the way of your appreciation of the author's story.

Kailana 9/21/09, 11:00 AM  

That's unfortunate about the errors. I have this book to read in October!

Louise 9/21/09, 11:51 AM  

Since my friend died this summer from cancer at the age of 40, I have been scared sh*tless myself, and would not be able to read this book. Not to make light of such a serious matter, but nucelar wars, deadly viruses and apocalyptic tales goes down much better than cancer-stories. Ugh. Already feeling this irrational urge to go see my doctor again tomorrow and have her assure me again that no, I do NOT HAVE CANCER.

But well written review!

Anonymous,  9/21/09, 11:54 AM  

Cancer is just too close a topic, and too tough to read, for me.

bermudaonion 9/21/09, 2:30 PM  

I do love memoirs, but this one sounds so gloomy I'm not sure I want to read it.

Anonymous,  9/21/09, 4:27 PM  

This seems a little to real for me. Not sure what that says about the mood I'm in?!

Sandy Nawrot 9/21/09, 4:39 PM  

I think this memoir sounds amazing. Just reading your review plunged me into the mind of someone that has just gotten such a diagnosis. While it would be hard to read through such an ordeal, it must also be uplifting to hear how she survived. This stuff is so close to home, but it seems like it would help to read it.

Anonymous,  9/21/09, 4:58 PM  

Like others, I think this one would hit too close to home! While it's certainly compelling, my stomach hurt just reading your synopsis. I think that means this isn't the book for me! But good review :)

Jenners 9/21/09, 8:27 PM  

This might be one of those you read when you actually need to hear about these experiences ... not one you search out becuase it seems so upsetting -- especially since most people don't have her advantages.

Veens 9/21/09, 10:43 PM  

I hate reading about cancers.... it is just so sad :)
I am glad you liked it...!

Kim 9/22/09, 1:46 AM  

Just reading the review gutted me!

Alice 9/22/09, 8:20 AM  

Hi Beth, I've just started reading this book and I do relate to what you wrote.

My review slot is in October. I'm glad to be a part of Carrie's blog tour.

Alison (Alison's Book Marks) 9/23/09, 10:58 PM  

Hits too close to home for me.

Thank you for the review. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to read this one, and I just can't do it.

My mom passed of cancer (also carcinoid) 9 years ago, and I can recall with excruciating clarity what she went through to fight it. It was a lesson in strength and grace...

I give Host so much credit for having the strength to share her story. Maybe someday I'll be able to read it.

Literary Feline 9/25/09, 6:30 PM  

I read another review of this one recently that moved me. Host's story sounds like a frightening and inspiring one. Perhaps one day I will be able to read it. Unfortunately, the death my friend a year ago to cancer is still rather raw.

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