A mesmerizing and courageous memoir: the story of two sisters uncovering the depth of their love through the life-and-death experience of a bone marrow transplant. Throughout her life, Elizabeth Lesser has sought understanding about what it means to be true to oneself and, at the same time, truly connected to the ones we love. But when her sister Maggie needs a bone marrow transplant to save her life, and Lesser learns that she is the perfect match, she faces a far more immediate and complex question about what it really means to love—honestly, generously, and authentically.
Hoping to give Maggie the best chance possible for a successful transplant, the sisters dig deep into the marrow of their relationship to clear a path to unconditional acceptance. They leave the bone marrow transplant up to the doctors, but take on what Lesser calls a “soul marrow transplant,” examining their family history, having difficult conversations, examining old assumptions, and offering forgiveness until all that is left is love for each other’s true selves. Their process—before, during, and after the transplant—encourages them to take risks of authenticity in other aspects their lives.
But life does not follow the storylines we plan for it. Maggie’s body is ultimately too weak to fight the relentless illness. As she and Lesser prepare for the inevitable, they grow ever closer as their shared blood cells become a symbol of the enduring bond they share. Told with suspense and humor, Marrow is joyous and heartbreaking, incandescent and profound. The story reveals how even our most difficult experiences can offer unexpected spiritual growth. Reflecting on the multifaceted nature of love—love of other, love of self, love of the world—Marrow is an unflinching and beautiful memoir about getting to the very center of ourselves.
I've never had a sister, and have often felt like I was missing something. I've had a few friends that were nearly as close as sisters. But not the known-me-since-I-was-born, love-'em, hate-'em, have-to-share-a-room kind of close. So what do you do when your sister suffers a recurrence of cancer and needs a bone marrow transplant?
That's the question that faced author Elizabeth Lesser, and her answer comes in Marrow, the exceptionally memorable and enduringly fulfilling memoir of her sister's journey with cancer. Can you write a memoir about someone else's life? Yes, when you are intimately entwined in the same journey. And, as a sister with a 100% bone marrow match, Ms. Lesser had that close connection.
Lesser starts with finding out that her sister's cancer is back. Then, through memories of their earlier lives, we get to see what kind of family molded them into the women they became. I cannot say the number of times I nodded my head while reading this book, recognizing the same kinds of people and situations in my different life. (My mother was a Christian Scientist as well, and my spirituality has turned out differently than hers.)
The author lays it on the line for her readers. We see the both the good (the closer bond that develops between the siblings) and the bad (never feeling like she fit in her family). And even though I knew the outcome of the sister's journey, I still hoped the story would end ... differently. (It's like watching Romeo and Juliet for the umpteenth time and still rooting for the Friar to get to Juliet's tomb five minutes faster.)
And one of the most fascinating things about Marrow? Yes, it can provide comfort to people in their own (or a loved one's) struggle against cancer. But the book can also provide patterns to answer other of life's difficult moments. I already know I will be reading Marrow again.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Find out more about Elizabeth at her website, and connect with her on Facebook.
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(Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author and HarperCollins, publishers, via TLC Book Tours, in exchange for my honest review.)