The Middle Place

So seeing as how I’m hoping to someday trick someone into publishing that book of mine, I’ve been reading a lot of memoirs, cancer ones in particular.  That’s how I ended up reading The Middle Place.  And that’s when I decided all hope was lost for me and Lymphomania because HOLY FUCK THAT LADY CAN WRITE.

He shakes his head and clears his throat.  And then he starts.  Slowly.  The kind of think you don’t interrupt for fear that even lifting your head off the pillow will make the words dissolve back into the shapeless puddle of feeling where they were born.

For the record, “that lady” is Kelly Corrigan.  I’ve been a fan of her breast cancer site for quite some time.

I’m not going to lie.  The book was even harder to read than I thought it might be.  At several different points I had to stop reading and watch a few episodes of Raising Hope until I could stop crying and those cold, dark memories faded away again.  Oddly enough, it wasn’t the poignant comments of loved ones or emotional outbursts that really tore me apart.  It was her cool, impartial observations.

“You gonna leave the girls here with Ark?  Ark you okay with that?” my dad asks, which of course Edward is, because you can have anything you want when you have cancer, especially in the beginning.

Those cool observations seem to run in the family.  Like here, where Corrigan asks about her mother’s brother Tommy, who had died a slow and painful death from brain cancer at only forty-three:

When I asked my mom if Tommy’s death was hard on her, she said, “Oh I don’t know,” like she had never been asked that and really, what right did she have to consider herself?  “I guess I figured God had worked things out as best he could.”  Then she paused and I almost cut in with another question when she said, “But later, I’d be playing bridge or tennis and it would feel like something fell out of me, and then I would think – oh Tommy.”

I swear I felt my heart all right out of me when I read that.  It still gets me.

(And because I’m a big believer in saying nice things when you think them – Thom, I’m grateful for you.  Even if you’re an ass hat.  Often.  The ass hat part, not the grateful part.  That goes for all my brothers.  The grateful part…and the ass hat part.  The end.)

(And no, I don’t think I’m that hormonal.  Back off, fuckers.  Ahem.)

If it’s cool with y’all, I’d prefer to just skip over the section on birthing her kid where she compares the pain to “…being stabbed repeatedly with a long, thick knife.”  *vomit*

I love Corrigan’s relationship to her family.  She has two loud yet endearing brothers that add some comic relief to the book, and her mother is stoic and strong.  But the star of the book?  It’s her father, Greenie.

Shortly after Corrigan is diagnosed with breast cancer, her adorable father is diagnosed with bladder cancer.  Greenie is probably my favorite character.  He’s supposed to be.  He’s clearly Corrigan’s favorite character, too.  And who can blame her?  Here she talks about the first time she introduced her father to her then boyfriend and future husband:

After lunch, I was finally alone with my dad.  “So, isn’t he just the greatest?  I mean, is he just so smart, so together, so handsome?”

But my dad seemed to think that his notable resume and good breeding were relatively inconsequential.  He just said, “Aw, Lovey, the way he looks at you…I just love the way he looks at you.”

(Yeah.  Um.  Dad?  Hi.  I’m grateful for you, too.  And you’re hardly ever an ass hat.  High fives.  And can you slap Mom on the ass for me while you’re at it?)

I’m genuinely curious to know if other readers, ones that aren’t cancer survivors, were as moved by this book as I was.  Did any of you kids read it?  Is it just a little PTSD talking here?

I kind of doubt it, honestly.  And that last word is why.  Honestly.  That’s how this book is written – honestly.  And everyone is drawn to honesty, don’t you think?  (Ok, not politicians.  Also not Charlie Sheen.  Or the makers of Spanx and push-up bras.  And some art directors.  Oh, never mind.)

But I will concede that maybe I’m drawn to certain passages more than others because of my experiences.  Like this one, just moments after she completed her last round of radiation and all her treatment:

I feel like a newly discharged soldier, a kid was drafted suddenly and shown things she can’t forget and then paraded around town on the back of a shiny convertible waving to the crowd of admirers who don’t know the half of it.  I wear the uniform, I show my scars, I nod through the hero talk.  Other vets repel me, and then, just as regularly, they fortify me.  Among them, I am completely real, not a cancer ambassador, not a patient representative, not “an inspiration.”

So, read it?  I think?  It’s beautiful.  It’s even funny.  Really funny.  But it’s hard, too.  Then again, sometimes the best parts of life are hard.

And yes…that’s what she said.


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24 thoughts on “The Middle Place

      1. yes, yes, yes, what the sweetest said. i swear your book reviews make me cry everytime. you can pick some heart-wrenching passages, girl. and as far as what chicken said, i’ll pimp your book to anyone! except you’d do a much better job of it. so maybe when your book is published you can write one of these book reviews of yours and we’ll publish it in my name cuz you’re not supposed to write them about yourself and then i’ll look fucking awesome wearing your words.

        (the mom excerpt killed me. i’m balling now. and am totally using this post as an excuse to take xanax tonite.)

  1. I did read it about a year ago. I loved it and subsequently forced it on everyone I knew. But I read some of yours on Patty Punker’s blog

    (because I didn’t notice your little link up there at the top until JUST now when I was all like, well, how come I was reading this on PP’s blog and not Elly’s, huh? Maybe I should go look, must be here somewhere)

    and I loved that, too, so don’t sell yourself short, you.

    1. Oh good. So The Middle Place really is universally engaging, right? I’m glad to hear that. You’re helping me with my market research, pookie.

      …sounds like I owe that Patty even MORE sexual favors now….

  2. If all writers look at each other’s stuff and say, That’s it. I can’t write like that. Then we will probably have only a dozen of working writers out there, you know, the most narcissistic ones. I don’t think you are alone. When David Sedaris was gushing over this book “verything Ravaged, Everything Burned” at his show, he also had the same thought: Why am I even doing this?

    Why? Because you have a very different voice from hers, or anybody else’s for that matter. And your voice is what we have come to love and appreciate, and it has nothing to do with the abundance of vagina jokes. Those are just cherry on top of the sundae.

  3. I mostly read to escape – 90% or better fiction. I know that I should read more stuff like this, life lessons learned, personal growth, blah blah blah. My day-to-day seems hard enough sometimes to bring more grief into it by reading some random stranger’s most intimate life-challenging experience. I’m not the lean-on-people, gain-strength-through-shared-intimacies kind of guy. I’m the stoic, I-can-handle-it-myself kind of guy.

    Now – if I had cancer I might look to see how others dealt with it; or if I had a good friend who went through it and it could give me more insight to what they went through I would read something like that.

    So – I will buy and read your book if you make friends with me. deal?

  4. this really moved me. in fact, i had to stop reading for a minute, walk away and come back. it made me think of all the women in my life, my family who have been affected and have pushed through with their courage. i admire them and i love them.

    i will read this book.

  5. I want you to write book reviews. And speaking of the need for some damn honesty in the world, I also want you to write Charlie Sheen’s biography.

  6. I did read it, although I am not a survivor, and absolutely loved it, too. You really can’t beat a book that’s all about love and life and people taking care of each other, right?

    That said, I like your style WAY BETTER than Corrigan’s, so please don’t give up on “Lymphomania” yet. I, for one, would pay money to read it even if I didn’t know Rock. 🙂

  7. “something fell out of me…” those words! There were only five of them. How could they hit so hard?

    And btw, I agree with Lin, we love your voice.

    LOVE.

    So let’s go. I’ve got a Barnes and Noble gift card in my pocket and I’m not afraid to use it.

  8. I loved this book. Although I am not a cancer survivor I was able to relate to her on the level of being someone’s child, and someone’s mother.

    “The Middle Place is about calling home. Instinctively. Even when all the paperwork—a marriage license, a notarized deed, two birth certificates, and seven years of tax returns—clearly indicates you’re an adult, but all the same, there you are, clutching the phone and thanking God that you’re still somebody’s daughter.” ~ I loved this part especially.

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