You Don't Have to Be Your Mother: One Family's Story of Breast Cancer, Birth and Renewal

Gayle Feldman, Author
Gayle Feldman, Author W. W. Norton & Company $23 (256p) ISBN 978-0-393-03640-4
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-449-90993-5
Paperback - 978-0-449-45696-5
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This is a first book for Feldman, PW 's Book News editor, and she has a gripping and agonizing story to tell. With a family history of cancer (her mother died of it when the author was a teenager), she discovered a hint of the dread disease in her own breast only a few weeks before she was due to give birth at 40 to a much-longed-for baby. The book is the harrowing saga, illuminated by humor, much courage and many flashes of warmth, of what followed. This included early inducement of Benjamin's birth, swiftly followed by a biopsy, a mastectomy when the tumor was found to be malignant and, months later, by a second, precautionary mastectomy. Feldman tells all this with the narrative rush--and the eye for human foible--of a good novelist, skillfully weaving together portraits of her extended family and memories of her Philadelphia childhood. For while Feldman recounts her own battle with the disease, many of the most poignant and dramatic moments are the flashbacks to what she now understands of her mother's ordeal and the ways it differed from her own. She seems to have been extraordinarily lucky with her doctors, whom she describes with a keen-eyed reporter's observations of contemporary medical practice, and in the unending support she received from her English-born lawyer husband David Reid. But her story ends happily; Feldman throughout is plucky, determined, almost devoid of self-pity and with a trace of ironical detachment (while her husband habitually addresses her as ``my darling, '' she addresses him brusquely and affectionately as `` D. Reid'') that undoubtedly helped see her through. This is the best kind of inspirational book, drawing on sound sense rather than bromides. (May)
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