cover image What We Have: One Family's Inspiring Story About Love, Loss, and Survival

What We Have: One Family's Inspiring Story About Love, Loss, and Survival

Amy Boesky, Gotham, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-1-592-40551-0

The cluster of cancers in Boesky's family had been identified by 1993, striking the women on her mother's side in the form of ovarian cancer through the generations, well before the BRCA mutations had been recognized. In this deftly wrought, engaging memoir, Boesky (Sweet Valley High series) tracks how she navigated her own decisions in light of her family's health history around her marriage and two pregnancies in her early-to-mid-30s. Boesky and her two sisters, who grew up in Detroit, knew that having children early and removing their ovaries by age 35 were essential to their life plan; their grandmother, several great-aunts, aunts, and a cousin had died by their mid-40s from ovarian cancer, and the sisters weren't taking any chances. Their own mother had undergone a complete hysterectomy at age 49. As Boesky chronicles her single-minded pursuit of marriage, fledgling jobs as an associate professor of English literature, first at Georgetown University, and the sense of urgency she feels at having her children as soon as possible, their mother has a small breast tumor removed, and five years later is diagnosed with full-blown, inoperable bone cancer. As a scholar of 17th-century English literature, Boesky weaves into the narrative the first uses of timepieces and watches as an ingenious leitmotiv and reminder of the fleeting nature of time, fashioning a touching resolution to this useful cautionary tale. (Aug.)