Reviews for No Cure For Being Human

by Kate Bowler

Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A chronicle of grief, hope, and courage.In 2015, when she was 35, Bowler, who teaches the history of Christianity at Duke Divinity School, was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer, with a very low chance of survival beyond two years. Years later, she follows her earlier memoir, Everything Happens for a Reason, with wise, wry reflections on living in the face of uncertainty. The world I thought I knew before the diagnosis was hygienic, predictable, and safe, Bowler writes. Her new world was threatening, uncontrollable, and unstable; her research, writing, and teaching suddenly seemed irrelevant. Often, the medical community made her feel reduced to an integer, quantified and charted. Cancer, she increasingly realized, was a mystery, and repeated visits and scans led to conversations with doctors to discuss what we are learning about the illness. Elated that she was one of few candidates for immunotherapy, she enrolled in an arduous clinical study, traveling weekly from her home in North Carolina to Atlanta, where she was infused with harsh, debilitating chemotherapy and immunotherapy drugs. Every cycle of her treatment left her grateful, weary, and, almost imperceptibly, weaker than the week beforewithout knowing if, and when, the treatment would work. Above all, she confronted the daily specter of imminent death. Everybody pretends that you only die once, she writes. But thats not true. You can die to a thousand possible futures in the course of a single, stupid life. Bowler debunks the hollow clichs that she has heard too often: to seize the day, live in the present, work on a bucket list. Facing the past, she counters, is part of facing the future. Like others who have suffered traumatic loss or illnessespecially during the pandemicBowler recognizes that so often the experiences that define us are the ones we didnt pick.A sensitive memoir of survival. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Bowler led a charmed life—a tenure track job at Duke University, nearly perfect marriage, and baby son—until she was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. Her first memoir, Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I've Loved (2018), dealt with the reckoning with possible death and with the saccharine platitudes that people offer. Her scholarly work on the prosperity gospel infuses the pages of this second memoir. What does it mean to "live your best life" when death seems all too close? Bowler observes that bucket lists have become a "new form of experiential capitalism" and ultimately a death-avoidant strategy. As she recounts the labyrinthine road of treatments and surgery, she finds love and joy everywhere, even as despair is never more than a hair's breadth away. Bowler's prose is adept at capturing the dialectic of life's "splendid, ragged edges" showing through. And she's funny, too. This is a gem for cancer patients and their families and for survivors, but really, for anyone who understands the terror and beauty of being human.


Library Journal
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In this memoir, Bowler (history of Christianity, Duke Divinity Sch.; Everything Happens for a Reason) talks about receiving a diagnosis of stage-four colon cancer; this begins a series of reflections on the evolution of Bowler's illness and her emotional journey through the ups and downs of responding to cancer. Bowler's affecting narrative meditates on the things she's just faced; she also takes it as an opportunity to reflect on the past and the kind of life she wants for herself in the future. Bowler writes about all of it with good humor, occasional anger, and vivid honesty, when she's discussing remission, the toll of the cancer cure, and the incredible hassle of getting a disability parking permit from Duke because her physician didn't properly write the request. Most poignantly, she talks about dealing with oncologists who aren't straightforward with her about her diagnosis. Through it all, she survives, offering along the way fresh insight on life and chronic illness. VERDICT General readers will be engrossed by this heartfelt memoir of sickness, family, and recovery. The table that serves as an appendix of complicated truths is worth the price of the book.—David Azzolina, Univ. of Pennsylvania Libs., Philadelphia


Publishers Weekly
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In heartbreaking essays, Bowler (Everything Happens for a Reason) recounts lessons learned after being diagnosed with stage four colon cancer at the age of 35. An associate professor at Duke Divinity School, she thought that everyone had limitless choices before receiving the grim diagnosis that pegged her survival odds at 14%: “Hope for the future feels like a kind of arsenic that needs to be carefully administered, or it can poison the sacred work of living in the present.” While mourning the loss of a future with her husband and two-year-old son, Bowler enrolled in a clinical trial for a new immunotherapy drug, and, miraculously, was one of 3% of patients to successfully respond to it. After searching her whole life for a “formula for how to live,” she writes, “cancer treatment had provided the clearest one of all.” Bowler’s strong faith is present throughout, though the writing, refreshingly, never feels overtly religious. More than anything, her convictions underscore the importance of living life on one’s own terms. “Someday... God will draw us into the eternal moment where there will be no suffering,” she writes. “In the meantime, we are stuck with our beautiful, terrible finitude.” Those in need of a wake-up call will find it in this breathtaking narrative. Agent: Christy Fletcher, Fletcher & Co. (Sept.)


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A chronicle of grief, hope, and courage. In 2015, when she was 35, Bowler, who teaches the history of Christianity at Duke Divinity School, was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer, with a very low chance of survival beyond two years. Years later, she follows her earlier memoir, Everything Happens for a Reason, with wise, wry reflections on living in the face of uncertainty. “The world I thought I knew before the diagnosis was hygienic, predictable, and safe,” Bowler writes. Her new world was threatening, uncontrollable, and unstable; her research, writing, and teaching suddenly seemed irrelevant. Often, the medical community made her feel reduced to an integer, quantified and charted. Cancer, she increasingly realized, was a mystery, and repeated visits and scans led to conversations with doctors to discuss what “ ‘we’ are learning” about the illness. Elated that she was one of few candidates for immunotherapy, she enrolled in an arduous clinical study, traveling weekly from her home in North Carolina to Atlanta, where she was infused with harsh, debilitating chemotherapy and immunotherapy drugs. Every cycle of her treatment left her “grateful, weary, and, almost imperceptibly, weaker than the week before”—without knowing if, and when, the treatment would work. Above all, she confronted the daily specter of imminent death. “Everybody pretends that you only die once,” she writes. “But that’s not true. You can die to a thousand possible futures in the course of a single, stupid life.” Bowler debunks the hollow clichés that she has heard too often: to seize the day, live in the present, work on a bucket list. “Facing the past,” she counters, “is part of facing the future.” Like others who have suffered traumatic loss or illness—especially during the pandemic—Bowler recognizes that “so often the experiences that define us are the ones we didn’t pick.” A sensitive memoir of survival. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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