NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A searing, deeply moving memoir of illness and recovery that traces one young woman’s journey from diagnosis to remission to re-entry into “normal” life—from the author of the Life, Interrupted column in The New York Times
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, Bloomberg, The Rumpus, She Reads, Library Journal, Booklist • “I was immersed for the whole ride and would follow Jaouad anywhere. . . . Her writing restores the moon, lights the way as we learn to endure the unknown.”—Chanel Miller, The New York Times Book Review
“Beautifully crafted . . . affecting . . . a transformative read . . . Jaouad’s insights about the self, connectedness, uncertainty and time speak to all of us.”—The Washington Post
In the summer after graduating from college, Suleika Jaouad was preparing, as they say in commencement speeches, to enter “the real world.” She had fallen in love and moved to Paris to pursue her dream of becoming a war correspondent. The real world she found, however, would take her into a very different kind of conflict zone.
It started with an itch—first on her feet, then up her legs, like a thousand invisible mosquito bites. Next came the exhaustion, and the six-hour naps that only deepened her fatigue. Then a trip to the doctor and, a few weeks shy of her twenty-third birthday, a diagnosis: leukemia, with a 35 percent chance of survival. Just like that, the life she had imagined for herself had gone up in flames. By the time Jaouad flew home to New York, she had lost her job, her apartment, and her independence. She would spend much of the next four years in a hospital bed, fighting for her life and chronicling the saga in a column for The New York Times.
When Jaouad finally walked out of the cancer ward—after countless rounds of chemo, a clinical trial, and a bone marrow transplant—she was, according to the doctors, cured. But as she would soon learn, a cure is not where the work of healing ends; it’s where it begins. She had spent the past 1,500 days in desperate pursuit of one goal—to survive. And now that she’d done so, she realized that she had no idea how to live.
How would she reenter the world and live again? How could she reclaim what had been lost? Jaouad embarked—with her new best friend, Oscar, a scruffy terrier mutt—on a 100-day, 15,000-mile road trip across the country. She set out to meet some of the strangers who had written to her during her years in the hospital: a teenage girl in Florida also recovering from cancer; a teacher in California grieving the death of her son; a death-row inmate in Texas who’d spent his own years confined to a room. What she learned on this trip is that the divide between sick and well is porous, that the vast majority of us will travel back and forth between these realms throughout our lives. Between Two Kingdoms is a profound chronicle of survivorship and a fierce, tender, and inspiring exploration of what it means to begin again.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
In Suleika Jaouad’s gripping memoir, the New York Times blogger gives a raw, frank account of her experience with cancer and its aftermath. Just out of the Ivy League, Jaouad saw her bright future come screeching to a halt when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia at 22. She holds nothing back regarding the harrowing details of the disease and its treatment. Still, we were even more impressed by the epic road trip she embarks on after she finishes treatment, seeking out people she had connected with through her blog. Jaouad writes with an emotional honesty that’s both jarring and brilliant. It’s exhilarating to read such a life-affirming memoir from a heroine who’s not afraid to own her flaws. Her life isn’t perfect, and she discovers that’s just another reason it’s worth celebrating.
New York Times columnist Jaouad (Life, Interrupted) makes a phenomenal debut with this big-hearted account of her devastating five-year battle with cancer. Symptoms first surfaced just before her graduation from Princeton, and she moved to Paris unaware of the cancer ravaging her bone marrow. After becoming ill, she returned to her family home in Saratoga, N.Y., and was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. At 22, she wrote of the diagnosis, "I finally had an explanation for my itch, for my mouth sores, for my unraveling. I wasn't a hypochondriac, after all, making up symptoms." During her treatment, which was documented in a series of blog posts and videos for the Times, she was bolstered by heartfelt letters from readers, including one from a man in Ohio who wrote, "Meaning is not found in the material realm. Meaning is what's left when everything else is stripped away." As Jaouad's cancer went into remission, she felt estranged as fellow cancer patient friends died and her longtime boyfriend left her. Finally, a hundred-day road trip visiting those who wrote her letters guided her "to live again in the aftermath." Every chapter ends with a cliffhanger, adding a surprising level of suspense to a work where the broader outcome isn't in question. This is a stunning memoir, well-crafted and hard to put down.
A book to be read and re-read and cherished. Thank you, Suleika for sharing this journey.
Riveting book about a girl with cancer who takes a journey and makes a new life for herself. Loved it.
Beautiful and captivating. A must read for all!