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What We Have: A Family's Inspiring Story About Love, Loss, and Survival Hardcover – August 5, 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Utterly Breathtaking. What We Have is a memoir that reads like a novel. It is more than a family history-it is a riveting portrayal of how women navigate life with a knife hanging over their heads. Amy Boesky gives so much hope and inspiration that it stirs readers to look inward and examine their own closely held beliefs about fate and destiny."
-Patricia Wood, Lottery

"In this riveting memoir, Amy Boesky takes on the big subjects-life and death, order and chaos, the coil of our genetic code-with intelligence, humor, and hard-earned wisdom. Here is love-a mother's for her baby, a daughter's for her mother, a love of life itself-funneled through the hourglass of time."
-Elizabeth Graver, author of Awake and The Honey Thief

"A compelling memoir about how cancer, the 'sharpshooter' as Amy Boesky describes it, stalked generations of women in her family, took away much that she loved, and how she made a brave and loving life by facing down her fears. Her love of language makes for thoughtful reading."
-Susan Straight, author of A Million Nightingales and Highwire Moon

"Amy Boesky has written a tender story about motherhood and daughterhood, romance and marriage, friendship and sistership, birth and death---and the power of love to transcend the most heartwrenching of choices. With the precision of a poet and the care of a scholar, Boesky brings her loved ones-and her own inner self-to full and vibrant life."
-Jennifer Moses, author of Bagels and Grits: A Jew on the Bayou

"With precision, candor, and enormous grace, Amy Boesky writes about how you live when time is finite, but the love in your family - though complicated - is infinite."
-Joan Wickersham, author of The Suicide Index

"Thoroughly compelling memoir... Boesky writes elegantly, almost poetically"

"Boesky chooses to move past her dread of approaching age 35, when doctors suggest she and her sisters have preventive surgery, and to live life deeply, daily, fully."
-Elle Magazine

"With bite and humor (and lighthearted allusions to 17th century metaphysics), Boesky turns a would-be "disease memoir" into a moving account. Perfect planning goes awry, and yet Boesky's loving, unsentimental portrait of these endearing women never does."
-O, The Oprah Magazine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

A graduate of Oxford and Harvard, Amy Boesky is an associate professor of English at Boston College. She was one of the principal ghostwriters for the bestselling young adult series "Sweet Valley High". She lives in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, with her husband and their two daughters.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham; First Printing edition (August 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592405517
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592405510
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,440,837 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
What We Have, a memoir by Amy Boesky, is a look into the life of a young woman who grew up with the threat of cancer hanging over her head. Grandmothers, aunts, and great-aunts, all of whom died in their 40's from ovarian cancer, created a shadow of fear that followed her every step. She knew at 35 she would have her ovaries removed, just as her mother did. When her mother developed breast cancer, she and her sisters breathed a sigh of relief--it was not the deadly ovarian cancer.

Amy allows her readers to understand the fears she grew up with and see how it shaped her personality and her life. You share with her the joys and tears of things now and things past. The story is beautifully woven with the past interlacing with the present and building the future.

I laughed, I cried. I felt like Amy was my best friend. I grieved along with her. I shared in her joys. I understood her fears. I felt like I was part of her world and didn't want to put the book down. This is an enthralling memoir that tops my list of must reads.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Group for review purposes. This review contains my honest opinions.
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Format: Hardcover
I cannot recommend this book enough. Beautifully written, heartbreakingly touching and moving, and yet also extremely inspiring and life affirming. I found myself so deeply affected and moved that I was unable to put this book down for two days, and especially towards the end found myself crying repeatedly. Although it may have affected me more than some because my own mother has been fighting ovarian cancer for four years, and thus I especially identified with the story, I would be hardpressed to find anyone not loving this book as I have. Especially moving was the scene near the end with her daughter Libby looking at the family pictures of her mother, grandmother, and aunt, and recalling the author's family pictures of her grandmother Sylvia. Without hestitation I give this book five stars.
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Format: Hardcover
I think we all live on borrowed time in this life but for some it's even more borrowed. Such is the case for Amy Boesky, author of What We Have: One Family's Inspiring Story About Love, Loss, and Survival. For as long as Amy can remember her family has always lived with the threat of the big C word - cancer - hanging over their heads and hearts. What we Have is Amy Boesky's memoir - a haunting look at what cancer can take from you yet keeping the faith that you will move on and survive.

At thirty-two, Amy feels that she has everything to live for - she's finally met the man of her dreams, married him and made a home. She's also landed her dream job yet always on the sidelines is the knowledge that she must have children soon if she's going to have them or it will be too late. You see for Amy and all the women in their family, it is important that they have surgery to remove their ovaries by thirty-five years old to prevent the ovarian cancer that runs rampant in their family and kills all of the women (yes, all of them). One quote that struck me from Amy was...

'That's how it is for me, thinking about the future. Two different shapes. One holding time; the other escaping it. One suggesting fragility, confinement; the other, something transcendent. Turn it one way, you see an hourglass. Turn it the other way, and you see wings.' (pg 3)

The women in Amy's family have died young - most before the age of forty-five from cancer. This overshadows every decision and thought she has. She has planned from a girl just how her life would go - meet someone, have kids as soon as possible and have the surgery recommended by her doctor just as her sisters have done as well. All of this in the hopes of changing the course of tragedy that has gone before in their family.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Amy Boesky's book is not just an important book about what it means to be a "pre-vivor" - someone who is at heightened risk for cancer due to family history and knows pre-childbearing that she'll have to have prophylactic surgery so that she won't get cancer. What this book was, above all, to me was simply an excellently written memoir, and a memoir of a mother, well-loved and much missed.

There were scenes in this book that made me, as a writer myself, simply want to throw away my computer and all my notebooks because I thought I could never craft a sentence as beautifully as Ms. Boesky did, put together a metaphor as equisitely, explain the day-to-dayness of it all, from the screaming baby to the dying mother.

So, yes, five stars and highly recommended, and anything else I can say. Read the book.
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Format: Hardcover
What We Have is a recounting of the author's life as it relates to the legacy passed on to her through the women in her mother's family. Ovarian cancer was the cause of death of her grandmother, great aunts and aunts--all before the age of 45. Boesky's mother died, in her late fifties, of breast cancer as a result of genetic mutation.

Being conscious of her family history, Amy Boesky grew up fearful that she and her two sisters would suffer similar fates. She says that she had "anxiety of airplanes...of interior organs...of highways...of steep grades...of descent...of failure...of speaking...of strangers": that is to say of pretty much everything. The memoir discusses her overall feelings of living in fear and at the same time describes Boesky's ability to keep a clear perspective on the hand she (and her sisters) have been dealt. As the mother of two daughters herself, she had much to consider. After giving birth to her girls, Amy elects to have her ovaries removed, followed two years later by a double mastectomy--preventative measures helping to ensure a long, healthy life.

Much of the book deals with the dilemma that Boesky faced during a particular time in her life--her thirties. New academic positions in the Washington, DC area and then Boston, marriage and children, 2 daughters in fact, fill these years. While she navigates her way through, her mother develops Stage Four breast cancer. The sadness, worry, and fear over this are palpable and movingly described.

While this story of fear and loss is compelling and sad and one that still stays with me, I was struck by Boesky's writing about her family dynamic. It is positively uplifting to read about the closeness, reliance, and interaction between Amy and her sisters and the love of and caring for their parents.
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