Picks and Pans Review: Heading Home

updated 03/04/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/04/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Paul Tsongas

At 42, Paul Tsongas was a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, a rising star in the Democratic Party. Then, in October 1983, he found out he had lymphoma, an incurable but treatable form of cancer. Four months later Tsongas announced he would retire from the Senate. This book, a diary of the agonizing days that led to that decision, is absorbing and candid. Despondent at first, Tsongas could not concentrate on anything but the thought of the cancer growing inside his body, and spent hours playing video games. Gradually, as the reality sank in, he turned to his family, especially his wife, Niki, and found that the decision to give up his promising career was the only one he could make. In one remarkable passage, he confronts an old antagonist and friend, Boston Herald reporter Frank Phillips, before the press conference at which Tsongas planned to announce he was quitting. When Phillips asks point-blank if Tsongas has cancer (he had refused to make the diagnosis public), Tsongas recalls, "The conversation went dead as two grown men who had tried to out-macho each other in tennis, sailing and swimming choked up." If his writing occasionally lapses into clich├ęs (about the "family unit," and how he "married well"), this book comes, as few do, from the heart of its author. (Knopf, $13.95)

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