10 March 2013

As I’ve written before, I love reading. I don’t spend nearly enough time reading books for as much as I love to do so. I really hate that there are so few physical bookstores left. Just like getting lost in a record store, browsing through a book store has always filled me with a dizzying delight, overwhelmed at all the possibilities at my fingertips. 

Last summer, I went to the mountains with some friends. We’d hike and then we’d spend part of the day all sitting on the huge, wrap-around porch together reading in rocking chairs or in the hammock. We were all reading our own books, but we were all doing it together. It felt like great together time, even though we weren’t talking. There was total contentment in our silence, punctuated only by turning pages (remarkably, we were all reading actual books, none of us was on a Kindle or some other time of iReader.)

Yesterday, I finished my book club’s March selection, “The Fault In Our Stars” by John Green. It’s a young adult novel that came out last year, but it is still doing very well (so much so that I don't think it's gone to paperback yet) and for good reason. It’s terrific. The story is told through the eyes of Hazel, a 16-year old terminal cancer patient, and her relationship with her parents and her boyfriend, 17-year old Augustus, who has lost his leg to cancer, but is in remission. 

The story has some twists that never strain credulity. Even though I saw  only one of them coming, the others didn’t seem implausible when they arrived.  The teenagers seem wise beyond their years —which isn’t a stretch given they are dealing with adult issues— but they don’t always have the perfect quip and they very often act their age. Their parents, who are dealing with the horrible threat of losing their children, come across as sympathetic and authentic. 

There’s awkwardness and sadness and joy and reality and humor. I’ve read nothing else by John Green, but I certainly will if his other books even approach the magnificence of this one. 

I was reading through his acknowledgements and he thanks a young girl, Esther Earl, who died of cancer and namechecks the charity her family has started in her honor: This Star Won’t Go Out. Esther was 16 when she died of thyroid cancer and it’s clear from reading her story that she deeply influenced Green as he crafted Hazel, in not only her spunky personality but in her cancer experience. On This Star Won’t Go Out’s webpage, her parents write about Esther and her 16 years and end the post with “Rest In Awesome, Esther!”  Wow...

TSWGO.org offers financial assistance to families who have a child with cancer. Since its founding in 2010, TSWGO has helped more than 50 families and distributed more than $100,000. I always find it incredible when a family takes its own pain and turns it into a way to help others going through the same thing.  I think if I had lost a child, I’d still be struggling to get out of bed every day. 

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