Rated Reads

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

by Amy Boesky

Rated: Moderate

The women in Amy Boesky’s family have been hit disproportionately with ovarian cancer and have died young. So Boesky — and her two sisters — grew up hearing the tick-tocking of cancer, waiting for the bombs to go off in their own bodies. To avert disaster, the three women planned to have their ovaries removed as a preemptive measure by about age 35; Boesky essentially planned her whole life around the big event: marry, have two children before then.

When she marries and has her first pregnancy, Boesky starts to feel some of the paralyzing fear lift: she focuses on the present, on the health of her body, on the wonder of nurturing a new life. She writes at length about her feelings of being pregnant, of having a new baby to take care of, passages that ring true to any woman who has been pregnant and then brought home a baby from the hospital and not been sure where to go from there. It is a surprisingly large portion of the book, for those expecting the whole memoir to be about cancer and death. But then that part hits: her mother, who despite getting rid of her own ovaries still got breast cancer, has a recurrence. And it’s back to cancer seeming to make the rules.

Boesky writes a beautiful account of her experiences as a sister, daughter, wife and mother, navigating life, health, sickness and death. Her writing is often lyrical, filled with paragraphs that one would want to read aloud to a friend. Little of the book is terribly original, but it is written with such a lovely style that it is compelling nonetheless.

Rated: Moderate, for about six uses of strong language and just occasional uses of mild and moderate language.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for more than 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • What We Have: One Family’s Inspiring Story About Love, Loss, and Survival
  • by Amy Boesky
  • Rated: Moderate
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Reviewer: