Picks and Pans Review: A Mortal Condition

UPDATED 12/05/1983 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 12/05/1983 at 01:00 AM EST

by Martha Fay

Eight people, most of them young, have one thing in common: They're seeking treatment at New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. A fading high school athlete from Seattle is brought in by his loving grandfather. A freshman at a prep school has to drop out temporarily because of leukemia. A nursing student has an ovarian cancer removed. A woman worries that her cancer is ruining the lives of her husband and children. As these and other cases are recounted, the writer returns again and again to the story of a middle-aged woman with six children. A Catholic and victim of lung cancer, she is as brave and vivid a character as a reader is likely to meet anywhere in literature, (Chemotherapy made her practically bald, so she would not allow anyone to see her without a wig. When her doctor walked in one day without warning, she scolded him, saying, "If he had suffered a bad fright, he had only himself to blame.") While the subject of this book might seem to be cancer, it is in fact about the resilience of the human spirit. Fay, a former staff writer for TIME and LIFE, spent two years with her subjects to produce a book that is powerful, emotional and, most of all, real. (Coward-McCann, $16.95)

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