cover image Little Earthquakes: A Memoir

Little Earthquakes: A Memoir

Sarah Mandel. Harper, $27.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-327091-6

Psychologist Mandel debuts with a bruising chronicle of her experiences with cancer. During her second pregnancy, 36-year-old Mandel was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer, which has a mortality rate of 73% within five years. Immediately after giving birth, Mandel embarked on a course of immunotherapy and chemotherapy that she describes in unflinching detail (“I felt my throat close. I couldn’t breathe. I tried to speak but was only able to force out a tiny, suppressed grunt”). At first, Mandel was the rare patient to achieve “no evidence of disease” status within three months, but she struggled to believe her remission would last. Indeed, several years after the breast cancer cleared, Mandel received a brain cancer diagnosis, but resolved that “perhaps I’m in denial, but I’ve landed on the notion that I was a statistical outlier in the past, and there’s no reason to think I won’t be an outlier once again.” The author nimbly portrays the cocktail of emotions unearthed by the sentence “You’ve got cancer,” and paints her supportive family with staggering compassion. Her dogged fight for her life will awe readers. (Apr.)