Picks and Pans Review: The Mercy Papers

updated 01/19/2009 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/19/2009 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Robin Romm

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"Rage, rage against the dying of the light," wrote Dylan Thomas—and that's what Romm does in this searing memoir of her mother's last weeks. Visiting her parents in Oregon, the California grad student slowly realizes that neither reason nor refusal nor fierce love can beat breast cancer. She strikes at grief with defiant humor, and though this child of a doctor (her dad) and a lawyer (her mom) never takes a leap of faith, writing is her transcendence. Her mom would be proud.

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