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Janet & Me: An Illustrated Story of Love and Loss Paperback – October 1, 2004
This month's Book With Buzz: "The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware
From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers "In a Dark, Dark Wood" and "The Woman in Cabin 10" comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, "The Lying Game." See more
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From Publishers Weekly
When cartoonist Mack decided to use a 1980 Greenwich Village bisexual conference as grist for his Village Voice comic strip, he never guessed the globe-trotting freelance writer he met there would become the love of his life. But Janet Bode's magnetism and trademark single earring soon had him under her sway and before he knew it, the two were sharing everything from travel adventures down to a single egg (he ate the white; she ate the yolk). Mack's tale of how his and Bode's easy companionship was derailed by Bode's breast cancer is unique for many reasons, but his improbably moving and downright funny illustrations drive this book right out of the crowded field of cancer memoirs. For instance, directly beneath his description of learning the initial diagnosis in a busy hospital corridor, Mack includes a sketch of the couple reeling in the wake of the rushed, insensitive surgeon. The flabbergasted looks on their faces speak volumes. Drawings of Mack and Bode's friends and caregivers appear alongside brackets containing each one's memories of the cancer's progression and how Bode coped with her increasingly bleak prognosis. This unusual technique gives everyone their own voice and, more importantly, it gives characters—especially Bode—a sense of life. Refreshingly, the dying patient never comes across as faultless; as one friend recalls, "My dear friend was dying and she was still giving me shit."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Cartoonist Mack and YA nonfiction author Janet Bode lived in unmarried bliss for 18 years, the last five clouded by the cancer that killed her. Mack introduces those final years with a two-page synopsis of them and a flash-forward to her memorial and his loneliness thereafter, which eventually led him to create the book. Then he retreats to when Janet first noticed the lump in her breast and tells the long version. She was feisty, funny, and rather in denial about her illness. He was the consummate helpmeet, maybe a bit enabling of her denial. Their love held firm, and they lived as they had, including hiking in far-flung places for recreation. She kept up promotional gigs for her books; confined to the apartment less than a month from death, she dressed for book parties her sister and friends attended for her. Illustrating more than cartooning, keeping vocabulary and syntax beautifully simple, and happily marrying text and drawing on every page, Mack surpasses himself as artist, writer, and designer. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top customer reviews
Sandra H. Phillips
Indeed, one of the features of this book that cancer patients and their families might find most helpful is that Mack provides a more realistic picture of the day-to-day aspects of caring for a terminally ill loved one. You get the sense that he wants to prevent others the trial-and-error efforts he had to go through to figure out what worked best. A related moral is that persistence is needed in dealing with insurance companies and the medical establishment. Lastly, his is a precautionary tale of the legal difficulties facing unmarried partners. Janet's will, naming Stan as executor, was challenged by her relatives, resulting in a legal battle that took over a year to resolve.
This last paragraph probably makes the book sound like it is cut and dried and concerned only with practical and logistical details. That is not at all the case. It is, first and foremost, a story of love and loss, and you will almost certainly be unable to read this book without being moved to tears by the depth of Mack's love and pain. But perhaps the greatest strength of this book is that Mack points out that, in real life, love and loss doesn't proceed like you see on bad made-for-TV specials, or "Love Story," where the heroine drifts off to sleep after a very short and essentially painless illness. In real life, love and loss are embedded in a host of not-so-pleasant details like "what kind of bedpan is best for the advanced cancer patient?" (answer: full-size bedside commode) and "how can I get her to take her pain medicine if she can no longer swallow?" The beauty of this book is that Mack shows so compellingly how love can shine through and conquer all those messy details.
I met Janet Bode briefly twice. She approached me because, as she said, "I recognize your hairstyle!" I was bald at the time, having also undergone chemotherapy for breast cancer. We ended up having a long talk, and I was devastated a year and a half later to run into her again, and see that she was bald again. She was beautiful, not just cute.
This is a wonderful book. I am giving a copy to a friend of mine who has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.