When I read that there was a memoir by the co-author of the groundbreaking, feminist Madwoman in the Attic, I had to read it. I am also interested in peoples’ interactions with cancer diagnoses and meditations on mortality. And like Gubar, in the abstract I am resistant to some of the extreme measures that decrease the quality of life while extending it only briefly.
As might be expected of an English literature professor, the style is wonderful; whether Gubar is describing a good day or a bad day, the description is vivid. I appreciated her periodic sentences and metaphors. As a professor too, her level of research is not surprising. She set out to read cancer narratives and fiction about women struggling with cancer (primarily ovarian as was hers and breast cancer) and websites about ovarian cancer. When she narrates a reaction to an event, she quotes others with similar and/or different reactions. When she is in despair she draws on great literature moments of despair; though these were often spiritual, she relates them to her physically induced state.
Gubar writes in order to draw attention to the lack of research funding for women’s diseases, primarily ovarian cancer, as evidenced by the lack of change in outcome for women with ovarian cancer and the horrendous nature of options. The options are set in the history of attitudes toward ovaries (at one time related to too much sex and at another to too little), attitudes that, of course, parallel attitudes toward women.
It might not be a good book to read for one in the midst of pondering whether or not to endure the radical “treatments,” but it would be a good book to have read.