Alice & Oliver by Charles Bock

Alice & Oliver by Charles Bock

Published by Random House on April 5, 2016
416 pages
Kindle format
Advance reading copy provided by publisher
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During my two-year clinical chaplain residency, I was assigned to the unit of the hospital that houses patients with multiple myeloma, leukemia and lymphoma; it's not an easy gig. I'd all but convinced Jonathan that "everyone is going to have cancer. Everyone. We're all going to have it and it's going to be horrible." 

The First Noble Truth is the Truth of Suffering: ‘You are born. You live. You suffer and get sick. You die.’ But of course nothing is so simple.

Thankfully, not everyone has cancer and not everyone who has cancer experiences what many patients with these specific types of cancer have to endure; it was a fantastic learning experience and, having spent some time in my own prison, it was extremely easy for me to relate to patients who were feeling helpless, a loss of control, and stuck in a place they'd rather not be in for long periods of time. 

For a time, inside the house that was her body, it was as if she were walking out of every room and turning off the lights behind her, one by one.

I was intrigued by this novel due to these experiences; I had no idea that it would be like reading a case study. The author's descriptions were so vivid, so accurate, that I had to stop and do some research; turns out, he wrote the novel based on the experience of his late wife, during her battle with leukemia. She kept journals of her illness and, while certainly the characters of Alice and Oliver are fictionalized and much different than Bock and his wife, there are elements of truth.

Right now, my desire has me ashamed. Worse than my shame is fear. Will I ever stand in our kitchen and make a big Sunday breakfast for Doe? Will we ever lick the frosting from the side of a bowl?

This is certainly not an easy read; I've read a few notable reviews that criticize the underdevelopment of the characters or the choppiness of the story line. To me, this is an excellent metaphor for life within an illness of this nature; it can only be described as chaotic and haphazard. Each character, for his or her own personal reasons, is barely hanging on; the disease ignores no one in its path. 

How much of life is regret, fretting over mistakes, wishing you’d had that perfect comeback to your ex, trying to make good for a turn from which there was no returning; reckoning with errors made from pride, desire, need, or defensiveness. Making mistakes because you were afraid. It’s a necessary pain: understanding there are fissures that cannot be healed, our time here is messy.

The fact that Bock was able to write this is nothing short of phenomenal; it will be immensely helpful to those who have gone through, or experienced peripherally, this type of illness. It reminded me of the way in which individuals must re-frame their perspective in the face of a devastating diagnosis. The story is heartbreakingly beautiful and, while the subject matter may not be pleasant, there is a sense of peace that emerges as it comes to a close.

Thin

Thin

2016 RussVegas Half Marathon

2016 RussVegas Half Marathon