Friday, May 8, 2009

Flashback Friday! [2]

TGIF. It hasn't been a long week but it was long enough. Let's kick the weekend off with a blast from the past.

Flashback Friday featuring Both Sides Now by Ruth Pennebaker



Witnessing her mother's battle with breast cancer, a teenage daughter finds her own strength.

Liza's mother has just completed an exhausting, but promising, treatment for breast cancer and her future looks bright. Liza takes the same approach to her junior year of high school--work hard, think positively, and keep everything under control. When tests reveal that a riskier, more painful treatment is needed, it seems Liza's mother has given up. But she hasn't. Her mother's courage shows Liza that life isn't about control, it's about living.

Drawing on the author's own experiences with breast cancer, this unforgettable novel reveals that positive thinking is not always the answer to tragedy, but that facing pain can bring great strength.

Why You Should Read It:

This book has always stuck in my mind. I've read it at least twice. I love Liza's voice. Everything is just leaping from the page. The characters are real and compelling. Family is very important in this novel and I think Liza's family is crafted well. The mother-daughter relationship is strong and it's unusual, beautifully punctuated by the inner-thoughts of Liza's mother which are scattered through out the novel.

Although the plot builds around the heavy topic of breast cancer the book is a solid, enjoyable experience. Liza has her own steady build of experiences as her family life is changing all around her. It's crazy how much life moves forward even though terrible things are happening all around you. That's one aspect of the book I like the most. I still think about this book because the experiences and situations and people in are so real. The writing is excellent. The details are delicate and well-crafted.

For a rich, poignant read you should check out this book.


(I just took this from Amazon)

It's foggy and misty this morning, but I can see the finish line the minute I turn the last corner. It's about a block away. Lots of people are standing around it, clapping and yelling. There are pink balloons everywhere, and they bob up and down in the wind.

When I cross the line, a woman in a white sweatshirt and aviator glasses gives me a big pink button that says I Raced for the Cure! I pin it on my T-shirt while I'm still jogging up and down. I look around, but I don't see Mom anywhere.

So I turn back and jog along the sidewalk, watching all the people who are still finishing the race. At first, they're all runners like me--young kids, college students, middle-aged guys with babies on their backs. But the farther back I go, the slower people are moving. After I've gone four or five blocks, you couldn't even call it a race. It's like a party that's walking very slowly. There are mostly women in long, wavy lines with their friends. They're talking and laughing and pushing strollers.

Mom and her friends are almost at the end of the crowd. She's with three women from her support group. They're all wearing pink T-shirts and visors that say I'm a breast cancer survivor!

"Liza!" Mom's waving at me. I jog over next to her and slow down to walk with her and her friends.

"You remember my older daughter, Liza?" Mom asks the other women. She pushes her hair back when she talks, the way she always has. Mom has a very pretty face, with deep blue eyes and soft skin and short, dark brown hair. Even though she doesn't like to exercise that much, she looks happy today. "Liza's a runner--when she's not doing lots of other things. She's the real achiever in the family."

The other women and I smile at one another and nod. I've met all of them before. There's Barbara, who's short and peppy and probably the most cheerful-looking person I've ever met in my life. She almost always has lipstick on her teeth from smiling so much. Then there's Jeannette, who's taller and more serious, and Libby, who has pale skin and big brown eyes.

The three of them have very short hair, like Mom's. That's because they all had breast cancer and went through chemotherapy a few months ago.

When Mom and the other women talk about chemotherapy, they call it "chemo," for short. I think it helps to give something a nickname like that, so it doesn't sound as scary. Besides, chemo isn't as bad as most people think. It kills the cancer cells in your body and saves your life. That's what you have to keep telling yourself.

"You think we'll win the race, Liza?" Barbara asks. She winks at me, and Mom and all her friends start laughing. Right now, the five of us are walking so slowly that it's going to take a year to finish. They might have taken the finish line down and gone home by the time we get there.

About ten minutes later, we turn the final corner. The finish line is still there, with all the pink balloons flapping around. By now, it's gotten hotter, and the fog and mist have disappeared. The sun is shining, bright and golden and beautiful, and you can see the soft green hills in the distance. That's a good sign. I always look for good signs, and I almost always find them, too. It's amazing.

People are yelling when we cross the line. I think it's because we're practically the last people to finish the race. Mom and her friends hug each other, and they all hug me.

Around us, all I can see is a small crowd of women wearing pink. They move together and apart and together again, and their faces look hot and red from the sun. They're laughing and crying at the same time, in a way that's hard for me to explain. I don't think I've ever seen anything like that before.

I hug Mom again. She's laughing and crying, like the rest of the women. For a few seconds, I don't know what to say.

What should I say? The day's beautiful and we've finished the race and I feel so happy to be alive--like something wonderful's going to happen any minute now. Something wonderful's going to happen, bursting out of nowhere, the way the sun just came out. Everything is going to be all right. It's such a strong feeling, like a surge of something very powerful, that I know it must be true. I wish I could explain it better. I wish I could make Mom and her friends understand. I wish I could make everybody in the world understand.

"Let's go, babe," Mom says. She stretches her arms up, over her head, and grins at me. "I need to get to the closest shower. It's an emergency."

I drive us home. I got my learner's permit last summer, and I'm starting driver's ed classes this week, so I need to practice driving as much as I can. The trouble is, I don't have very good depth perception. That's why I have this bad habit of running over curbs. Dad says I shouldn't worry about it, though. It's a bad habit to focus on mistakes, because that's negative. As long as I act like I have confidence in my driving, I'll start to feel it, he says.

Other Books By This Author:

Ruth Pennebaker also wrote Don't Think Twice and Conditions of Love. Both of these novels are excellent. I love her entire body of work. For years I would pray to see something new every time I went to the library. I'm still waiting for her next book! So, Ruth, if you see this, please publish another YA book!

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