by Ray Kluum
This is clearly autobiographical and it’s appallingly honest. The protagonist, named Dan, is weak and sentimental; his wife, Carmen, is strong and patient. We know this because when Carmen is diagnosed with breast cancer , which turns out to be an aggressive form that turns terminal, she mostly handles her fear and pain with dignity and forbearance (and a whole lot of shopping). Dan, on the other hand, always a bit of a philanderer, deals with her dying by turning up the heat, becoming almost pathological in his womanising.
It’s an extraordinary story of a young, successful, have-it-all couple who seem to be on the brink of losing it all, starting with self-respect. There’s a high incidence of marital breakup associated with a diagnosis of breast cancer; Dan is living the cliché. The courage with which Kluum sets out Dan’s actions and reactions speaks of a man who’s gone beyond self-loathing into redemption, but who won’t forget how very badly he let himself down.
You learn a lot about living through cancer treatment in this book; you also learn a lot about the vanities and fallibilities and lack of certainties that lie at the cutting edge of extreme medical intervention. A really, really powerful read which headed straight to the top of the bestseller lists in Kluum’s native Netherlands, picking up a few awards, and going into translation along the way.
(Review by Heather Parker)
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