Normally, I like to jump into my CBR Review quickly and bop through a breezy synopsis and analysis of the book, but this time, there’s too much going on. Did you ever read a book that sort of corresponded to a life situation? Because it happened this time, and I feel like my reading experience was influenced by my personal experience, and that turned the book into something different altogether.
About 6 weeks ago, one my close friends and colleagues in my department was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. She’s in her early 30s, it’s sudden, and she’s having to take time off work and school to go through surgery, radiation, and chemo. What’s worse, is this kind of tumor is likely to come back. We don’t know when.
So, in our small group of friends, the CANCER specter is hovering rather annoyingly over us. It feels like it is clouding so much, and I’m fighting so hard to keep it away. I’ve been to visit my friend at her parents house out-of-state, and she is amazing in that she is keeping her head up and just focusing on getting better. I was supposed to visit her again last week, but she had to go back to the hospital for another surgery, much to our great disappointment. School is starting again, and I just don’t know when I’ll have the time, and I don’t want to “forget” her and leave her behind.
So, reading The Fault in Our Stars was actually very helpful, if you can believe that. Not everything is analogous, obviously. But in following the quasi-love story of Hazel and Augustus, I began to realize (yet again) that life/death/loss/love are all connected and equally unpredictable for the healthy and “sick” alike.
I particularly like John Green’s treatment of cancer. He’s not sentimental and often makes fun of the Cancer Patient trope and the Cancer Genre of writing (Lurlene McDaniel, anyone???). People with cancer aren’t saints and they aren’t perfect. They are. Ultimately, we all just are. And that might be the single greatest takeaway from this novel.
The novel ends as one might expect it does. I will say: it does not surpass The Book Thief for its soul-gutting devastation that had me curled up in a fetal position over a box of Kleenex. I’d describe my sadness as a slow and steady leak of tears because the pain and beauty were just slightly too much to bear together.
My one critique of the book would have to be the end. I don’t know what it is about books dealing specifically with loss, but for some reason, the end of the novel just didn’t feel…realistic, right, I don’t know (this is, by the way, my one criticism of Ian McEwan’s excellent The Child in Time, another book about loss and grief). It was too neat. It didn’t seem entirely realistic and in keeping with the rest of the story. But perhaps Mr. Green realized he needed to provided his readers some catharsis and chose this particular setup. It doesn’t detract from the novel overall, and I am very glad that I read it.
For being a novel about cancer, this book is filled with joy, surprise, love, and exquisite happiness. Things I hope to carry to all my friends and loved ones for as long as I have them. Cancer or no cancer.*
You can also read this review on my personal blog, The Universe Disturbed.
*Please forgive my excessive use of feelings. I am feeling so many things today, and I just cannot put them all into coherent words.