Updated: Sep 10
A Memoir of a Life Interrupted
By Suleika Jaouad
A Beautiful and Lyrical Portrait of a Woman Struggling to Survive.
It began with an itch when she is a senior at Princeton. She is told it is nothing, maybe just stress-related. Shortly after Suleika Jaouad 21, graduates and moves to Paris. There a doctor tells her that her red blood cell count indicates cancer. Jaouad is on the next plane back to New York to start a different kind of journey. She is diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, with only a 35 percent chance of survival. Jaouad will spend the next five years in the battle for her life. Her new boyfriend and her parents are by her side while she received countless rounds of chemo, a clinical trial and a bone marrow transplant.
Jaouad chronicles her cancer treatment, her feelings and her experiences in a written and video blog. The blog goes viral and is published by the New York Times. She received countless heartbreaking letters and emails from readers, cancer survivors and cancer fighters wishing her well and sharing their experiences and stories.
As her cancer eventually enters remission at the age of 26, Jaouard feels disconnected from the real world. She is at an in-between place—no longer sick, but not well either. After watching fellow cancer patients die and her longtime boyfriend leave, she needs to find a way to move beyond the kingdom of the sick to the kingdom of the well. As a rite of passage to this new kingdom, Jaouad embarks on a trip to India and follows that trip by a 15,000 mile solo U.S. road trip visiting two dozen strangers whose letters had sustained her when she was sick.
“To learn to swim in the ocean of not-knowing- this is my constant work.”
Between Two Kingdoms is a beautiful and lyrical portrait of a woman struggling to survive when the odds are against her. It’s a gripping and gut-wrenching memoir full of depth and hopefulness.
Jaouad’s writing is honest, heartfelt and hauntingly descriptive. Readers will be amazed at her candor and will appreciate her fortitude and her bravery. It’s a must read book for 2021.
Jaouad, as only appropriate, narrates the audio version of this poignant and personal book. She gives a brilliant and emotionally intense performance. Her tone, pronunciations and pacing are perfect.
“The tangling of so much cruelty and beauty has made of my life a strange, discordant landscape. It has left me with an awareness that haunts the edges of my vision—it can all be lost in a moment—but it’s also given me a jeweler’s eye. If I’m thinking about my illness—abstracted from its impact on the people around me—then the answer is: No, I would not reverse my diagnosis if I could. I would not take back what I suffered to gain this.”
Publisher Random House
Published February 9, 2021
Narrated Suleika Jaouad