Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Review: Marrow by Elizabeth Lesser

Sisters are special people. They share your history. They are part of good memories and bad. You share both love and strife, oftentimes dating back years and years. I can't even begin to imagine what it would feel like to be told that not only does your sister have cancer but that without a bone marrow transplant, she will die, and soon. But that is the devastating news Liz Lesser got from her sister Maggie and which she chronicles in her new memoir, Marrow: A Love Story.

Liz and Maggie hadn't always had an easy relationship but Liz was as devastated as anyone when the lymphoma that they all thought Maggie had beaten seven years earlier reoccurred. And with the aggressive recurrence, Maggie's only hope was a bone marrow transplant. Each of the three Lesser sisters was tested but it was Liz who was the perfect match. So began the journey of the sisters, a journey through cancer and its treatment but also a journey through love and soul searching, a journey to reconnect as sisters, and a journey to live life fully and intentionally. This memoir, although inspired by Maggie, is more of an examination of Liz's inner life and emotions. It is a combination memoir of both the reality of terminal illness and self-help with a lean towards mysticism. Once Maggie agrees to try the transplant, she and Liz look at healing their years of misunderstandings and resentments in preparation for the transplant, hoping that coming to a forgiving and healing place together emotionally, sharing acceptance and forgiveness, will allow the harvested stem cells to thrive in Maggie.

Lesser examines her own journey, her role in Maggie's life, and discusses ways in which to get to the marrow of life and love, weaving all of these together within the same chapters. There are some brief "field notes" of Maggie's from her journal but they are fairly infrequent. And really, the focus here is more Liz than Maggie. It is more about how she viewed her sister and their lifelong relationship than it was about losing this sister she came to understand and respect so much. This made the memoir less emotional than it might otherwise have been given the subject matter. The pieces about Maggie and about Lesser's growing up years were engaging and something to look forward to. The self-help portions were definitely less so for me and dwarfed the life and relationship the book was celebrating. Lesser's spiritual beliefs are evident here but by framing the narrative the way she does, the depth of emotional impact is minimized and depersonalized. The reader needed more of Maggie and what made her who she was, a sister Liz loved and upended her life for, a mother, a wife, a nurse, an artist, an actively dying person who could say that the year after her bone marrow transplant was the best year of her life, and so much more. It would be hard to write a memoir about losing a sister without it being about love and grief and this definitely has that but it also has life, Liz's life and the ways in which making the journey with Maggie changed her forever. Those who don't mind a rather large helping of self-help with their memoirs will really enjoy this a lot.

For more information about Elizabeth Lesser and the book, check out her web page or like her Facebook page. Also, check out the book's Good Reads page or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins for sending me a copy of this book to review.

1 comment:

  1. I have only one sister, and no brothers. It would break my heart to have something like this happen to my sister, and I'd be the first in line to be a marrow donor for her.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!


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