Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan

Genre: Nonfiction Memoir
Publisher, Year: Voice, 2008
Flags: Adult themes
Rating: B, or Flawed But Decent
Premise: Kelly Corrigan finds a lump in her breast. Before she knows it, she’s living the nightmare of cancer. And while in the midst of her treatment, she receives another blow, her father has also been diagnosed with cancer. Kelly takes us on her journey as she finds courage and love and peace with the hand she’s been dealt.

This book did not turn out to be exactly what I had expected, but I still thought it was alright, for the following reasons:

It gave me great insight into what it must be like to go through getting and fighting cancer. Kelly, the author, finds out she has a large tumor in her breast, and then has chemo and radiation therapy. Also, her father, with whom she is very close, is diagnosed with cancer soon after. It was interesting to read about her thoughts and feelings going through the process, having to face her mortality, and learning how to cope through treatment, hoping for the best. I think it helped me a lot to understand what it would be like to go through such a trying experience. It was also interesting to see how her other family members coped: her brothers, her husband, her mother, her +/-
father, and her extended family. To see how their views differed, and how they could work together to help one another find peace and hope.

I enjoyed her and her family's sense of humor throughout her ordeal. And even though there were many, many sobering moments, I felt like Kelly's sense of humor was always an important part of her "treatment," perhaps not the treatment of her cancer, but her "spiritual" treatment. Especially her happy-go-lucky, overly-friendly father, who loves to give everyone a nickname and tell jokes. (He calls Kelly "Lovey" and her husband "Ark," since he's from Arkansas. Also, there are many nicknames involving "o" at the end.)

Facing the possibility of death is something I find hard to imagine, since I've never been through it. She was so young when she was diagnosed, with a young husband and even younger daughters. She would be leaving behind a full life that she would never get the chance to live. At the same time, it almost seemed as though the possibility of her father's death devastated her even more than the thought of her own. I think she captures the hurt and anger that come with these sort of tragedies so well, and it really resonated with me. Sometimes life is so unfair, it's hard to find meaning in it. And yet, she is able to.

This book has been marketed as a "coming of age" story, but that didn't seem like a very good description when I finished it. It does include alternating stories between Kelly's childhood and her adult life, and she frequently talks about how she is reluctant to really "grow up." But, I didn't really see a change in Kelly from beginning to end. More than just anecdotes, I wish I could've seen into the heart of Kelly's ability to "rise above" her illness and to accept her "new life" as a cancer survivor, which she definitely did.

It is a great story about family, and I think a very candid one at that, as well. Overall, I enjoyed it.

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