So this month I’ve been reading:

Cancer: A Pilgrim CompanionCancer: A Pilgrim Companion by Gillian Straine
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a powerful book, mixing faith, science and cancer, giving a sense of hope – and definitely a recognition of shared suffering as part of the ‘cancer club’. Cancer is seen as a pilgrimage – part of life’s greater pilgrimage. Lots of helpful extracts from other texts (including the Bible obviously), and insights into Gillian’s personal journey (especially the psychological one). Lots of moments that I recognised from my own experience so far – my only struggle with it a little was with a new secondary diagnosis – do I get to experience remission again (or No Evidence of Disease) as they tend to call it. Really helpful book – particularly for those of faith – in helping to legitimise many of the mental/spiritual struggles we have as we hand our bodies over to the medics.

Out of Control: Couples, Conflict and the Capacity for ChangeOut of Control: Couples, Conflict and the Capacity for Change by Natalie Collins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was sent this book pre-publication to review, and to see whether I would endorse it.

Will I endorse it, 100% I will! There are so many people who could benefit from the book. I knew some of the issues already as I have been talking to Natalie on/off for several years, especially about things that concern the digital, but I have learnt so much, and I think domestic abuse is something the church cannot keep avoiding – and Natalie is very clear that the topic is ‘domestic abuse’ and not ‘domestic violence’, because otherwise the focus is on physical violence, rather than emotional abuse, which is often more prevalent/damaging.

The audience of the book includes church leaders (the theological preaching/pastoral decisions that encourage people to stay with abusive partners), although there is a huge amount of information in there for people whose lives are not informed by Christian faith. Another audience includes people who are/have experienced abuse (specifically women in this book), helping them to recognise abuse, how to plan to leave abusive partners, encouraging recovery once abusive partner has been left.

Whether you are an abuse survivor, or someone who is interested in helping those stuck within or escaped from an abusive situation, the book is packed full of the years of knowledge that Natalie has – both from her personal experience, and the work she has been doing for the years since. I found the book hugely informative, albeit with some very challenging examples of what domestic abuse looks like – Natalie does not mince her words, although she also finds space for humour in what is otherwise a very dark topic. You can tell that Natalie has heard it all, and has the research to respond to the challenges and excuses she is frequently given, and challenges the stereotypes.

Overall, I found it powerful, challenging, accessible, informative and very protective of its readers. The book is hugely powerful in accessibly offering space to a very complex topic, at the heart of which are issues of control and power, giving many practical examples, and at the end of each chapter encouraging readers to recognise that they are dealing with difficult topics, and to take time out for some self-care … it’s not necessarily a book to be read in one go, but also highly readable, so you could if you can cope with the heavy content! I turned down quite a few page corners to return to….!!

For Freddie: A Mother's Final Gift to Her SonFor Freddie: A Mother’s Final Gift to Her Son by Rachael Bland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I exchanged a few tweets with Rachael last year, whilst I was being treated for breast cancer, and absolutely loved #youmebigc (still do, and have the latest one to listen to). Recently diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer (although mine is a pretty positive prognosis so far), I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read another cancer book, but I hoped that Rachael’s zest for life, even as she faced death, and her humour would still come through.

I’m about to start new treatment, and just been on a course for work for most of the past week, but decided I’d read a chapter last night … I was soon 2/3 of the way through, needed to sleep, but picked it up again this morning and finished reading it. I never met Rachael, but radio/social media does mean you feel you get to ‘know’ someone, and this sings throughout this book.. and the ‘poo on the curtains’ incident practically had me crying … with laughter! As someone who is thinking about #deathmin (thanks podcast!), hearing about Rachael’s accident at 16 – encouraged the attitude that gets so many through cancer – put one foot in front of the other… and having pets teaches you about life/death.

As someone who’s enjoyed a fair few life coach type books in my lifetime, this would actually sit well with those, as Rachael encourages her young son to seize life, be kind, don’t waste time on those who won’t support your ‘team’ – and he’s part of a team of 3 even though she can’t be there, and enjoy the ice creams! It sounds like the sleepless induced delirium that inspires online shopping isn’t only caused by chemo steroids … but by having a baby who struggles to sleep!

Aside from a few references to cancer scattered naturally throughout the book, it doesn’t make a big appearance til the last couple of chapters, and is based on Rachael’s blog, a mix of cancer/science talk, and recognising that you find out who your friends are (and they are good friends), and that life can be lived right to the end. Lovely tributes from friends/co-workers at the end too.

Normal PeopleNormal People by Sally Rooney
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m always open to looking at new ways of doing things, but was rather confused by the writing style. I was intrigued by the story at stages of the book, as the story bounced through different time points, and gave insights into the complexity of the human condition, but overall found it rather a disturbing story of control, over-obsessed with sex, and with a very odd ending!

I read the book as it was on the YBCN reading club list.

View all my reviews

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