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Pretty Is What Changes: Impossible Choices, the Breast Cancer Gene, and How I Defied My Destiny Paperback – April 7, 2009


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Pretty Is What Changes: Impossible Choices, the Breast Cancer Gene, and How I Defied My Destiny + Confronting Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer: Identify Your Risk, Understand Your Options, Change Your Destiny (A Johns Hopkins Press Health Book) + Positive Results: Making the Best Decisions When You're at High Risk for Breast or Ovarian Cancer
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

TV writer Queller (The Gilmore Girls) was 31, single and healthy when her mother succumbed to ovarian cancer at the age of 58, having battled breast cancer six years earlier. Queller chronicles her mother's long and anguished struggle in vivid detail. After her mother's death, at the suggestion of an acquaintance, Queller opted to discover whether she carries the breast cancer gene; indeed, she tested positive for the BRCA-1 gene mutation, which gave her an 87% chance of breast cancer before age 50 and a 44% chance of ovarian cancer in her lifetime. With this knowledge in hand, Queller began the journey toward her pivotal choice: a prophylactic double mastectomy at age 35. Along the way she traveled between the West Coast and New York City, seeking medical opinions, information and unsuccessfully—but not for lack of trying—a man she can love who will father her children before she follows up with voluntary surgery to remove her ovaries. This Hollywood writer's story is seamless and gripping; readers will be rooting for Queller and her heroic decision to confront her genetic destiny. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“By turns inspiring, sorrowful and profoundly moving. Queller’s sense of humor and grace transform the most harrowing of situations into a riveting and heartfelt memoir.”Kirkus Reviews
 
“Seamless and gripping. Readers will be rooting for Queller and her heroic decision to confront her genetic destiny.”Publishers Weekly
 
“Jessica Queller gives us a warm, chilling, unflinching look at her personal journey of survival with style. The ending will surprise you. Her prescience is astounding. Her courage is inspirational. Brava Jessica!”—Marisa Acocella Marchetto, author of Cancer Vixen
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; Reprint edition (April 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385520417
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385520416
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #113,221 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A. Van Buren on April 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Focusing on three generations of women in her family, Jessica Queller lays the groundwork early on, letting us know she comes from a fiercely independent line of women, but one that still defines pretty by traditional means. From her actress-grandmother to her fashion designer-mother, and herself, a television writer (at the time, on the show "Gilmore Girls" and currently on "Gossip Girl), Queller grapples with the difficulties of finding her place in this female dynamic.

When her mother dies from ovarian cancer however, Jessica turns her contemporary eye on taking the BRCA test (the test for the breast cancer gene). After discovering she tests positive for the gene, Queller's inherent and inherited beauty is at risk as she weighs the options on how to proceed and insure her health and longevity for a beautiful life. The reader is taken into her mind as she meets survivors, pre-vivors and others touched by the disease and ultimately, makes a decision to redefine the genes and ideals we inherit.

While this book does tackle deep topics and questions, Queller strikes a balance by setting it against the starry backdrop of the television world and the history of her unique and lovably idiosyncratic family. Readers of any level and gender will appreciate her writing and hopefully, walk away with their own picture of the ever-changing face of beauty.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Roni W. Elson on April 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I was hooked from the epigraph quoting Stephen Sondheim:
"Pretty isn't beautiful, mother. Pretty is what changes. What the eye arranges is beautiful."

This book, ostensibly about the breast cancer gene, is really, remarkably, about life, liberty in the confounding pursuit of medical truth, cancer, art, creativity, Hollywood, and the most compelling mother/daughter coming of age story I have ever read.

Upon reading "Pretty Is What Changes," I immediately signed up for gene testing, googled the author, bought a ticket for a revival of "Sunday in the Park with George," went to see Seurat at the Modern, and had serious talks and hugs with my daughters about the gene, my own artist mother, their limitless potential for success, and my love for them. Whew!
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Cecilia Gray on April 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. Jessica Queller is a talented writer with a gripping story, one she tells with honesty and without sentiment. With a fascinating sweep through the author's family history, around the brave new world of DNA fortune-telling, and into her own personal relationships and how they are affected by the explosive power of the BRCA gene, her style is both intimate and intelligent.

This is not a dark and somber story. Queller is able to maintain a sense of humor about herself while getting to the scary nub of it all - the life-and-death decisions, the thorny issues of fate and afterlife - and ends the book on a note of inspired hope. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a great read. It is not necessarily, even, a cancer book. It is a book about the triumph of will, passion, and self-determination.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jasper Riley on April 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I never write reviews, but with this book I can't resist -- I could not put "Pretty is What Changes" down!
Queller's heartfelt memoir is at once touching, informative, massively entertaining and witty. An extremely unusual quality for a book that delivers such a powerful and grave message. If cancer has touched any part of your life (via even a friend of a friend) this book is a must read. Live through Jessica's journey, you will be a better person for it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Christabel on April 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I throughly enjoyed and learned from this book and think Ms Queller is a gifted writer. The reviewers who criticize her lack of indepth information on BRCA testing and genetic mutations are being unfair. Ms Queller is not a genetics scientist or even a physican. (My stepson is a brilliant genetics biologist and, believe me, the average layman would not understand most of what he says.) Jessica Queller is telling this story as a patient, a patient who bravely poured out her very intensely personal experience to strangers to read. I think she deserves to be admired and even thanked. It is interesting to note how similar the critical reviews sound. Perhaps written by the same person using different names? Or maybe this is such a personal topic it has touched a raw nerve in some readers and upset their peace of mind. I don't know, but I do think the book deserves rave reviews. Many nonfiction books are poorly written and bore me to death. This story never bored me for one minute; I was entertained, enlightened, and impressed. Kudos, Ms Queller. I hope you will continue to write about your ongoing experiences and (best wishes) with your family planning.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By EMILY FOX on April 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An absolute must-read. The vivid portrayal of loss and hope is so clear-eyed, so honest and so courageous that I was humbled and grateful to have been allowed this glimpse into Jessica's experience. I have already sent this book to more people than I can count.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Frank O'File on April 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I haven't been so moved by - nor laughed so hard because of - a memoir since I read This Boy's Life: A Memoir (by Tobias Wolff - one of my favorite books). The turning of painful life experience into art - of occasionally far-from-pretty material into beautiful prose - makes this book a pleasure. Ms. Queller has intelligently faced the scariest parts of her life, and her account of the difficult choices along her journey not only made me marvel at her toughness while reading the book, but made me strongly urge the women in my family to get BRCA testing. A challenging topic in this rapidly changing world of ours has been handled with something that I feel is becoming harder to find all the time: grace. I recommend this book, and look forward to reading her next one.
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