Amanda Bennett's memoir of her husband's battle with cancer is much more than the sum of its parts. It's a love story about two ridiculously mismatched people; a portrait of a maddening, brilliant man; and an examination of our nearly unfathomable health care system. It's written with such honesty that when you open the book you feel like you're stepping right into their life -- the squabbles, the pain and all.
Bennett, a journalist, met Terence Foley ("Mr. Bow Tie") in 1983 when she was on assignment in China. They didn't have much in common, they fought all the time, and for a while she suspected he was a spy -- but somehow they got married, and somehow it was terrific. And then he got sick.
As Bennett navigates the terrifying world of disease and treatment, she also must navigate the baffling world of costs and insurance. Why are some procedures covered and others not? Why does a procedure cost one amount at one hospital and a different amount somewhere else? Does her husband really need 76 scans? Ah well, they're covered, so why not?
Bennett knows how privileged she was; she had excellent insurance, and when they needed to pay out of pocket for some procedures, they could. The $600,000 spent on her husband's treatment bought him a little time, and bought them both hope, and that's no small thing. But was it $600,000 well spent? Her book ends on a chapter filled with frustrated questions -- and few answers -- about our inequitable, impossible, convoluted system.
LAURIE HERTZEL, SENIOR EDITOR FOR BOOKS
It's hard to believe that sisters Jo and Claire Gilly are from the same family. Jo is hard-working, devoted to saving the family salt farm in the small Cape Cod village of Prospect. Her face has been disfigured in a fire. She willingly feeds the town's belief that the salt has mystical properties and peddles it to a clientele that is dwindling despite her best efforts. Beautiful younger sister Claire married into the town's wealthiest family and wants nothing to do with the salt or her sister. She rides through town early in the morning on her horse and lunches with other high-society ladies. When Cutt Pitmann moves to town and takes over the café, his teenage daughter, Dee, becomes fascinated by the sisters. She asks townspeople about the sisters' history, sneaks out to visit the salt farm, and flirts with Claire's handsome husband, Whit. Her curiosity draws her in deeper than she intends. As we learn more about the Gilly family history, long-guarded secrets emerge, Whit's violent nature is revealed, and the sisters find a common bond in protecting themselves from him. Family ties, while tested by estrangement, prove to be lasting after all.
JUDY ROMANOWICH SMITH, NEWS DESIGNER