It probably won’t surprise you, after reading this book, to learn that breast cancer affected me personally. It moved into my family when it was least expected, and I’m afraid it didn’t leave until it was ready to take my mother with it. At the time I was nine years old and my brother was five, so you will see that it had a very profound effect on our lives.
I feel in many ways that Josie is based on my mother, not only through the experience of cancer, but because they seem to speak with the same voice. Those of you who have had similar experiences, either personally or with loved ones, will probably have heard them speaking too. The struggle for courage and understanding, and for a way to help close friends and family to come to terms with the shock of diagnosis, is a very difficult one, and perhaps that’s the main reason I decided to write this book.
There are many cancer charities with as many different ways of helping, and each is as valuable as the next. I chose to work with Breast Cancer Care in the United Kingdom because its main focus is the individual, the man or woman who needs support and advice perhaps like they never have before. But that isn’t where it stops, because BCC also offers the same sort of backup for loved ones. Unfortunately, Breast Cancer Care doesn’t offer its services overseas, but all its publications and information are free and available on its website, www.breastcancercare.org.uk. There are also many charities in the United States that provide support:
Susan G. Komen for the Cure:
The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF):
National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF):
BreastCancer.org Something that has been a great mainstay for me over the years is friendship, the other core subject of this book. I feel that the one shared between Bel and Josie is one of the most unusual I’ve written, and yet one of the most poignant. I truly believe, as Bel’s mother says in the book, that we are all capable of being angels for someone, and Bel and Josie found an angel in each other. (Josie also found one in a very unlikely source, which I hope you found both amusing and uplifting.) Josie and Bel would never have come together were it not for breast cancer, and so through them I hope I have managed to portray a more positive aspect of the experience.
If you or someone close to you is currently suffering with this disease, or if, like me, you have lost someone, it is my hope that this book will help you to feel a little less alone. With my warmest wishes to you all,
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. How would Josie’s life have been different if she had been able to tell her family about her condition immediately? Do you think her life would have been better or worse if she had?
2. Have you ever had a secret you felt you had to keep from those closest to you in order to protect them? How did you deal with it?
3. Did you relate to one of the two main characters, Josie and Bel, more than the other? Which one, and why?
4. Why did Josie take her husband, Jeff, back after he cheated on her? Did he deserve it? Would you have done the same? Do you think he redeemed himself in the end?
5. Bel is upset when Nick and Kristina get married so soon after the death of her sister, which puts her off to a rocky start with Kristina. What brings Bel and Kristina together in the end?
6. Do you think Josie’s son, Ryan, actually committed the crime he was accused of?
7. Why does Bel push Harry away?
8. In what ways do Bel and Josie complement each other? Do you think they would have discovered a friendship if horrible circumstances hadn’t thrust them together? Has their friendship changed them by the end of the book?
9. Which of the many themes of the novel (friendship, family ties, love, and loss, among others) struck you as most important?
10. Were you surprised by the ending? What did you think would happen?
11. Did you learn anything you didn’t know before about breast cancer because of reading the novel? Did the book change your thinking in any way?
12. How did Bel’s volunteer work affect her life? Have you ever volunteered with or would you ever consider volunteering with an organization like Breast Cancer Care?