I picked up this book again recently, after hearing about the author’s death almost 25 years after she was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer, and surprised myself by reading straight through it even though her experiences and the intelligent, almost poetic, but also trenchantly snarky way she wrote about them have stuck with me, sometimes word for word, amazingly well years after my initial encounter. Karen Russell Rich was only 32 when she finally became determined enough to make her doctors take the growing lump in her breast seriously. This was 1988 and breast cancer was still largely in the closet. It was before the era of ubiquitous pink ribbons, “save the ta-tas” buttons, and awareness months. She was too young to know anyone else who had the disease so had to find her way largely on her own. Her marriage fell apart shortly before her diagnosis and she was in the midst of remaking her life in the heedless way we do after major emotional setbacks, with lots of random dating and a new job. Cancer was obviously not in the game plan, and yet somehow it was there, and life went on, with sometimes grueling hardships of course, but still surprisingly well. This is not a depressing book. It’s written with piercing, insightful humor and Karen was able to lead a life that was full based on any standard, enough so that she wrote a second book about her adventures living in India and learning Hindi. I’ve also had cancer, and wanting to get on with living and not have the illness define my existence I usually avoid disease memoirs, but I’ve made an exception to that for this book twice.