What We Have
By Amy Boesky
320 pages; Gotham

"This story is about what it's been like for one family—mine—to live with risk," says Amy Boesky in What We Have, her memoir about being a previvor, one of the increasing number of women with cancer-ridden family histories who find themselves deciding whether to have genetic testing or preventive surgery. With bite and humor (and lighthearted allusions to 17th-century metaphysics), Boesky turns a would-be "disease memoir" into a moving account of her high-achieving clan, the women so close that they call each other by the same nickname (Mellie, an affectionate nod to Gone with the Wind). Aware of their shared biology, Boesky and her two sisters think they can control it: "Time, you couldn't do much about. Timing was different." They each decide to have their ovaries removed just as soon as they've had children. When the author and her younger sister become pregnant, they are ecstatic—but not for long. Perfect planning goes awry, and yet Boesky's loving, unsentimental portrait of these endearing women never does.


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