cover image Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted

Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted

Suleika Jaouad. Random House, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-0-399-58858-7

New York Times columnist Jaouad (Life, Interrupted) makes a phenomenal debut with this big-hearted account of her devastating five-year battle with cancer. Symptoms first surfaced just before her graduation from Princeton, and she moved to Paris unaware of the cancer ravaging her bone marrow. After becoming ill, she returned to her family home in Saratoga, N.Y., and was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. At 22, she wrote of the diagnosis, “I finally had an explanation for my itch, for my mouth sores, for my unraveling. I wasn’t a hypochondriac, after all, making up symptoms.” During her treatment, which was documented in a series of blog posts and videos for the Times, she was bolstered by heartfelt letters from readers, including one from a man in Ohio who wrote, “Meaning is not found in the material realm. Meaning is what’s left when everything else is stripped away.” As Jaouad’s cancer went into remission, she felt estranged as fellow cancer patient friends died and her longtime boyfriend left her. Finally, a hundred-day road trip visiting those who wrote her letters guided her “to live again in the aftermath.” Every chapter ends with a cliffhanger, adding a surprising level of suspense to a work where the broader outcome isn’t in question. This is a stunning memoir, well-crafted and hard to put down. (Feb.)