Malmo, Katherine. Who in This Room: The Realities of Cancer, Fish, and Demolition. Corvallis, OR: Calyx Books, 2011. Print.
Reviewed by J. d'Artagnan Love
Who in the Room contains stories originally published in literary journals. These stories are seamlessly weaved together into a memoir of cancer and coping with its realities, as suggested by the subtitle. At age 32, Kate is diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer and undergoes treatment. She develops a set of coping skills that takes her through her treatment.
This book is a short, quick read but don't let that fool you. What it lacks in length, it makes up for in depth. Each chapter is a story within a story. The first story is the literal story of Kate's treatment process. The second story is usually a description of a coping method that also acts as a beautiful symbol or allegory for a different part of the many facets of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
To me, reading Who in This Room felt like looking at a well cut diamond. There are lots of different surfaces and angles, all reflecting the light in unique and beautiful ways. I laughed, I cried, I was pissed off. I felt like a lived a lifetime in just 134 pages.
Malmo experiments with point of view in this memoir, and while I don't think she quite pulled it off, I really admire writers who make a strong effort to try something new and add to their craft.
Would I read it again?
Yes, yes and yes! This is going on my re-read shelf because it is one of the books where you get something different out of it each time you read it.
Recommend for: Readers who have survived breast cancer or have a loved one going through the process. Readers who appreciate a memoir that will grab you by the feelings and hold on through the end.
Not recommended for: Reader who may be triggered by medical descriptions or readers who want something with a linear narrative.
Word bank (new-to-me vocabulary)
- algal (p. 103)
- anadranous (p. 77)
- caddisfly (p. 88)
- icthyologist (p. 77)
- fluorocarbon (p. 79)
- gunite (p. 80)
- tippet (p. 84)
Kathrine Malmo's website: http://www.katherinemalmo.com/
Calyx Books: https://www.calyxpress.org/product-category/books/
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