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The Truth About Suzie Paperback – October 21, 2014
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"I love love love this book! ... The Truth About Suzie is a wonderful testament to friendship and support in all it's forms. ... Funny and heart-wrenching, I laughed and I cried - often at the same time. A very honest look at breast cancer and the impacts it has on our relationships, including the gifts that can come with cancer -- renewed connections, insight and love. This is one of those rare books that will live on in my mind for years to come. Everyone should be lucky enough to read it!"
-- Allison Bially, author of award-winning memoir Booby Trap
From the Author
The Truth About The Truth About Suzie
My book is inspired by a true story. I get questions about this. I'll try and answer a few of them.
Q: What does that mean: "inspired by?" How much of this story is true?
A: All of it. Except for the parts I made up.
The true story is this: I was diagnosed with cancer. A long, lost friend contacted me out of the blue, and implied she was fighting cancer too. We emailed for a while. Then: three shocks. 1) She died. 2) On a reality show. 3) Of something other than cancer. Of something that implied that she may have never had cancer at all. Was she lying to me the whole time? I had to find what was true and what was not in our relationship.
That's what happened, and I almost wrote a nonfiction book about it. But it didn't work. Truth is stranger than fiction in most cases, and this truth supported that maxim. I didn't have enough answers, so, in what I think was probably an attempt to process my grief, I made up what I thought had happened, what I wished had happened, and what I feared had happened.
It's fiction, but it's a cut-up collage of small things that happened during my cancer battle. I plundered my own Facebook posts. I constructed a backbone for the book, for Cecily, from my Facebook posts. I collected tidbits of detritus from this time, from myself, and from my family and friends. Names, snippets of conversation. If you knew me while I was writing this, you're in the book. I've stolen the names of your stuffed animals, I've referenced things we've done and conversations we've had. For some people, reading this book will be like "Where's Waldo?" They'll see themselves everywhere. When you do, imagine me waving at you.
Writing the character of Suzie was tricky. I didn't want to use any of the real emails we'd written to each other. In the end, I used the first one: the one she wrote when she reached out to me the first time. That is verbatim in the book: the only quote from the real Suzie. The rest is made up. The book follows our conversational arc, sometimes very loosely, sometimes pretty closely. But, in the end, I was writing fiction. Suzie isn't her real-life alter ego.
Q: Are you going to reveal who "Suzie" is in real life?
A: I think I can't, now. Because I've changed everything about her, and if I went back and said, "It's based on so-and-so," I'd be misrepresenting her. The Truth About Suzie is inspired by our story, but it's not our story.
Q: Is [one of the characters] based on me?
A: Do you want it to be?
A: Then it's definitely not.
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Suzie is there via Facebook, supporting her friend Cecily as they both fight cancer. The reader is led on this journey through a lot of emails, Facebook posts and messages in addition to the usual form of story telling. The conversations between the friends were what you'd expect from two people going through the same things ~ supportive, loving, sympathetic when necessary and full of 'you can do this' encouragement when needed.
The book begins as we see Cecily trying to find out the truth behind Suzie's story and her realizations and understanding as the story moves along. Quite a different type of story, but one that is probably much more common since social media has exploded in all our lives. I'll be looking forward to reading future books by Ms. Rimlinger.
Also, if you're in a book club, this is a great book for discussion on many different levels.
You "check" it as much as you read it - I read much of it on my phone - and once you get accustomed to the flow of the narrative, it's hard to put down. You have to, you know, to flush and wash your hands, but you don't want to.
The players show you one face you recognize quickly - headstrong sisters, awkward would-be boyfriend, TV producer, rock star cad - just the caricature that social media provides. But in person, their alter egos, motivations, and determination hook you. Sometimes (and Suzie illustrates this most of all), "it's complicated".
I think our heroine Cecily wouldn't want to be considered inspirational just for wanting to survive, and likewise our author wouldn't want to be considered fearless for putting herself out there and sharing this wonderful story. Label it however you like - I'm glad she did it.
And most high praise for having the stones to call someone (a) Dick 759 times. Publicly. Take that.