cover image Goodbye to Clocks Ticking: A Memoir of Living with Cancer

Goodbye to Clocks Ticking: A Memoir of Living with Cancer

Joseph Monninger. Steerforth, $25 (208p) ISBN 978-1-586-42360-5

Monninger (Margaret from Maine) recounts his battle with terminal Stage 4 lung cancer in this meditative memoir. After 32 years of teaching college classes, Monninger and his partner were planning to retire and renovate a cottage in Maine when a CT scan confirmed he had inoperable cancer. Monninger’s subsequent treatment involved living with a lung catheter to drain fluids and skipping chemotherapy to try an expensive new drug called Tagrisso, which promised a better chance of remission. Eventually, Monninger’s condition stabilized, which prompted him to reconsider his life. “I was still a ghost of myself... but the world still delighted me,” he writes. He alternates between accounts of doctor’s appointments and contemplative days at home, sprinkling literary references throughout. (When thinking about the long-term effects of Tagrisso, Monninger is reminded of Flowers for Algernon, specifically the story’s discussion of administering a treatment that loses its efficacy over time.) The author is as at home recalling decisive medical conversations as he is when considering questions that arise in the wake of a terminal diagnosis, such as burial options and accepting the “quiet thing” of death. But Monninger, who is still alive, avoids raw emotionality. The result is a frank yet distanced self-exploration. Agent: Christina Hogrebe, Jane Rotrosen. (Mar.)