Book Review: Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad


Title: Between Two Kingdoms

By: Suleika Jaouad

Genre: Memoir

Pages: 352

Release Date: February 9th, 2021

Publisher: Random House

Rating: ★★★★☆


Summary from Goodreads:

A searing, deeply moving memoir of illness and recovery that traces one young woman’s journey from diagnosis to remission and, ultimately, a road trip of healing and self-discovery.

In the summer after graduating from college, Suleika Jaouad was preparing, as they say in commencement speeches, to enter “the real world”. She had fallen in love and moved to Paris to pursue her dream of becoming a war correspondent. The real world she found, however, would take her into a very different kind of conflict zone.

It started with an itch—first on her feet, then up her legs, like a thousand invisible mosquito bites. Next came the exhaustion, and the six-hour naps that only deepened her fatigue. Then a trip to the doctor and, a few weeks shy of her twenty-third birthday, a diagnosis: leukemia, with a 35 percent chance of survival. Just like that, the life she had imagined for herself had gone up in flames. By the time Jaouad flew home to New York, she had lost her job, her apartment, and her independence. She would spend much of the next four years in a hospital bed, fighting for her life and chronicling the saga in a column for The New York Times.

When Jaouad finally walked out of the cancer ward—after three and a half years of chemo, a clinical trial, and a bone marrow transplant—she was, according to the doctors, cured. But as she would soon learn, a cure is not where the work of healing ends; it’s where it begins. She had spent the past 1,500 days in desperate pursuit of one goal—to survive. And now that she’d done so, she realized that she had no idea how to live.

How would she reenter the world and live again? How could she reclaim what had been lost? Jaouad embarked—with her new best friend, Oscar, a scruffy terrier mutt—on a 100-day, 15,000-mile road trip across the country. She set out to meet some of the strangers who had written to her during her years in the hospital: a teenage girl in Florida also recovering from cancer; a teacher in California grieving the death of her son; a death-row inmate in Texas who’d spent his own years confined to a room. What she learned on this trip is that the divide between sick and well is porous, that the vast majority of us will travel back and forth between these realms throughout our lives. Between Two Kingdoms is a profound chronicle of survivorship and a fierce, tender, and inspiring exploration of what it means to begin again.


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I find that if I am to stay grounded in this world, I must also read about struggles and those who have overcome them. Even with the sadness all around us, and the heartbreaking stories in this book, I find myself uplifted and hopeful that there are still miracles in this world. What a remarkable read.

This book found its way onto my shelf from a post on Instagram. I admit, I find a lot of good reads there. I also have to admit I didn't think I was ready to read another book about cancer, but I'm glad I dove into this one.

Suleika Jaouad has a wonderful writing voice that's smooth and calming. The way she can put pen to paper doesn't make you feel totally devastated by her story, although you do feel the heartbreak in her words, but she allows you to feel every little detail all in due time. It was a nice way to read as it didn't leave me emotionally exhausted by the end of the books since I am a power reader and usually read a book in one sitting.

Everyone should read a book that makes them think about their own mortality.

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