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What We Have: A Family's Inspiring Story About Love, Loss, and Survival

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3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  292 ratings  ·  76 reviews
Read Amy Boesky's blogs and view other content on the Penguin Community.



The stirring true story of a woman who chose fearlessness in the face of a fatal family legacy and discovered the pleasure of living each moment to its fullest

At thirty-two, Amy Boesky thought she had it all figured out: a wonderful new man in her life, a great job, and the (nearly) perfect home. For...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published August 5th 2010 by Gotham (first published July 29th 2010)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,162)
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Jennifer
From my book review blog, Rundpinne. (4.5 stars)

"Beautifully written with a mix of heartbreak and joy, What We Have by Amy Boesky is a deeply moving memoir of family dynamics. Amy Boesky tells her story as a daughter, a wife, a sister, a mother and of course as herself, a type “A minus” personality, whose life has been structured with special focus on time, considering the women in her family rarely live past the age of fifty. While not a memoir of ovarian cancer, the very essence of who Amy is...more
Lara
Cancer.

It's an ugly word, and an even uglier reality.

Nobody likes to think about it, but for some people, like Amy Boesky, it is never far from their thoughts. Amy, her two sisters, her mother, her aunt, her grandmother--all of the female members of her family lived in fear of cancer, and with good reason. Most of them lost their battles with ovarian cancer in their early 40's. They always knew it was just a matter of time before another one of them would be diagnosed with it, too.

What We Have i...more
Jamie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Diane

What We Have, a memoir by Amy Boesky is revealing look at the life of a woman, wife, mother, daughter, sister, and English Professor. A courageous woman born into a family where all of the women (except one) died of ovarian cancer by their mid forties.

Amy is determined to live her life and fulfill her dreams, of getting married and having two children by the age of thirty-five. She has decided to undergo voluntary surgery to have her ovaries removed when she turned thirty-five, the age when the...more
Amy
In deep conversations with female friends over the years, I have found that one of our number one fears (especially after becoming mothers ourselves) is dying of cancer. Every lump we have...every twinge we feel could certainly be the beginnings of cancer. We tend to live our lives waiting for our turn at cancer to come. When someone we love is diagnosed, our heart feels so much pain for them, but we cannot help but ask ourselves internally, "What if it happens to me?"

So, it was with a similar...more
Wendy
Have you ever plucked a book off your shelf to read, not really expecting more than a good story; only, you find so much more than you anticipated? I am sure we all have to some degree. Whether it be an even richer reading experience, a connection made with a character, a lesson learned, or something else entirely. It was that way for me and Amy Boesky's memoir, What We Have.

It is difficult for me to be objective about this book because it spoke to me on a personal level. And when Lisa of TLC Bo...more
Katherine Friedl
I read this book for Cancer Genetics class for grad school. I didn't think the conclusions that Boesky arrived upon were unique or particularly deep. She included lots of mundane details of her life. Learning about her education in the history of timepieces was interesting at first, but I quickly became uninterested and started skimming the pages about her career pursuits.
Jean Godwin Carroll
One woman's story of her family's inherited cancer gene. I thought the first half of the book was very slow as she talks about meeting her husband and getting her first job and moving to a new city. The second half deals with her mother's sickness and death and was more moving. However it wasn't until the very end that she talked about her decision to remove her ovaries and breasts as prophylatic measure and her struggle with whether or not to be tested for the BRAC-1 gene. Since this was the wh...more
Emily
Certainly there were parts that were not much better than your typical run of the mill mommy memoir . . . I suppose I expected more of the author since she's a British literature scholar and professor. Of course, diseases are interesting to me, though. I won the book from Goodreads, which is exciting enough to me as an avid reader and a bit of a book hoarder. I definitely would not have bought the book. I possibly may have checked it out from the library if a friend had recommended it.
Susan
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Daenel
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ruth
This was a book that I won on the Giveaways from Goodreads. I don't often give a book 5 stars but I felt that Amy Boesky truly deserved the rating. The book is a memoir which is set apart from ordinary memoirs because the women in the family face the genetic threat of ovarian cancer and die early.

It is not only the subject matter of the book that is gripping but Amy's style of writing. Her metahpors are fantastic. Her descriptions of feelings are right on target. For example, she discusses her...more
Sara
4.5 stars. This memoir covers a little over a year in the author's life, from the time she decided to have a baby through about the first year of her daughter's life. The author is an English professor with a fascination with watches and time, and she uses thoughts about both to help explain why people act the way they do. In her case, cancer was highly probable for the female members of her family, and as she felt her own clock ticking to the time when she would have to take preemptive action,...more
Cecelia Hightower
Betty said - this is a memoir about the author's family, what they grew up with, what developed in their immediate family. Amy shares a deeply transformative year in her family's life and invites readers to join in their joy, laughter and grief. The immediate family consists of the mother and father, and three daughters who have grown up, finished college and were into their own families. I have three daughters so it was interesting to me to see and appreciate the dynamics between these sisters....more
Caitlin
I liked this memoir. It's well-written, sincere, playful yet serious, and the author manages to bring herself and her own struggles to light in a way that feels honest. The book gave me a lot to think about, particularly as the author struggles with her own need to think ahead and be prepared and the reality of a world that throws what it wants to at you in its own time and fashion.

Ms. Boesky obviously belongs to a clan that loves and supports each other, even when it's difficult. I particularly...more
Lynne
About: All of the women in the author's family have died before the age of 45 from cancer. She and her two sisters grew up knowing they were in a race against the clock...they would have to hurry, get married and have children and decide whether or not to have elective surgery in order to have a chance at life.

Overall: Loved it!

Liked: Everything.

I know, another sad someone-gets-cancer-and-dies book. But it's so much more than that. If you can handle - and felt a connection to - Still Alice, abo...more
Cheryl
What We Have is a memoir about author, Amy Boesky and growing up and having every waking moment focused on if this is the day she would be diagnosed with cancer? This is a survivor story but as Mrs. Boesky explains not in the sense that she is a cancer survivor but a “previvor”. A previvor is someone who doesn’t have cancer but has an elevated risk for having it, either through a family history or by diagnosis with a genetic mutation. Being a previvor I think is almost worse then having cancer....more
Canadian Reader
I actually read well over 50 pages of this memoir before abandoning it, uninterested in the many domestic, work-related, and pregnancy-focused details it provided. Given Amy Boesky's work as a professor of literature, I was expecting the writing to be of a much higher caliber and the observations more insightful and stimulating. I found myself leaving the text for longer and longer periods, until I was distinctly averse to reading any further. Glad I just borrowed instead of bought this one. Per...more
Carin
You would expect this book to be really sad, but I found it ultimately hopeful.

The book is really well-written. I found it a little funny in fact that while Amy has no control over her worrying and occasional panic while it's happening, she has enough distance to be able later to report it to us in a way that shows she is very aware she's high-strung, and occasionally unreasonable in her fears. Her husband Jacques is not at all a worrier - he's more of a wait-and-see comparison shopper. While t...more
Kimberly Simpson
An amazing memoir. I love the way the author captured how relationships change over time. My favorite quote....

“It’s a funny thing, fear. How it follows you, changes shape, adapts to each new place and situation. Like furniture, which you carry around and set up in one house after another. It may look a little different in its new place, but it’s still the same stuff.”

Or the one that touched my heart even more because i have not lost a parent to cancer .....

“These days, the world for me was divi...more
Flannery
I just finished this one an hour ago so it's still fresh. It was a fairly quick, enjoyable read, given the heavy subject matter. It's this woman's story of being from a high-risk cancer family (several female relatives have died of ovarian cancer by their early 40s) and how she and her two sisters try to cram motherhood into the relatively small window between being ready and the "target age" for full hysterectomy to try to stave off the family curse. Along the way, though, her mother develops b...more
Lacy
The story could be wonderful, she is an excellent writer with a very interesting and heartfelt story to tell. I come from a family (myself included) with a history of cervical cancer. My only sister died 5 years ago.

I really wanted to read this. I felt VERY connected to the author... "living from fear to fear" when she goes in for a screening every 6 months. Every ache, pain, bump, bruise... I just know it's cancer.

HOWEVER, after getting about half way through, I chose NOT to finish the rest of...more
Courtnay
Beautiful memoir--and Boesky's passages on motherhood, sibling relationships and parent/child relationships are extremely interesting and relatable. Really enjoyed reading her family's story.
Dawn
I won a pre-release copy of this book and plowed through it. A true story about a family of women genetically inclined to die young of ovarian cancer, it is very touching - a box of kleenex nearby while reading it would come in handy. It's so easy to relate to the struggles of a newborn baby in the house, and heatwrenching to read of the way cancer seeps into their lives. Didn't like the solitary swear word that kept popping up - with the flair for words that the author has, I think if she would...more
Jane
Sep 26, 2010 Jane is currently reading it
I just started this book after hearing the author speak. I'm intrigued because she grew up knowing that she had a strong family history of ovarian cancer. So strong that doctor's recommended that by age 35 she have her breasts and ovaries removed, due to the high likelihood that she carries the BRAC1 or 2 gene. This knowledge has colored her whole life. She has had to deal with the loss of her mother, and most of the women in her family to cancer. I found out I had the gene when it was too late...more
Natalie Snapp
I enjoyed her writing but I have to be honest and say there were so many moments that her lack of faith pointed to the exact answers to what she was wrestling with in her daily life. She stated often she struggled with surrendering control, she always needed a "plan", etc. all the while stating that she is an atheist. Hmm...

I don't expect everyone to believe what I believe but this was an obvious case of someone who has shunned religion based on what seems to be her own stereotypes of what faith...more
Eliza Fayle
One of my tests for a book review is whether I can sum up the entire book in one word. The faster that one word comes to me, the better the book.

I had not even closed the covers on Amy Boesky’s What We Have, when I had my word …BEAUTIFUL

If this was movie, I would say ‘the cinematography is beautiful’. You know when you watch a movie and the filming is so stunning it just washes over you? Like Out of Africa. But, this is a book, so the closest I can come to this is ‘the voice is beautiful’.

To rea...more
Jeanne Grunert
Very enjoyable memoir, well-written and a good read. Recommended.
Michele
This book is about a woman whose family has a predisposition to ovarian cancer. So all the kids in her immediate family (three women) are on a fast track to push some kids out and have a hysterectomy to lower the chances that they will die of the same disease that killed three relatives.

Honestly, I didn't think there was a lot that I would relate to when I started this book, but then I read it in three sittings and found myself pondering the possibility of starting my own family soon. A great f...more
Cindy
This is a well-written memoir but I just didn't have a connection with the author. I have never heard of her and the story seemed to veer off. I thought it would be about the struggle with deciding if she should be tested for the BRCA gene and have the surgery but instead it's really just a story about her life. I don't really care about her pregnancy, or her house hunting, when I have no idea who she is. I think the story could have focused more on the idea of--if I get this information, what d...more
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Amy Boesky has written in a range of genres, from a picture book for children (Planet Was) to bestselling books for teenagers (Sweet Valley High,The Beacon Street Girls) to scholarship on 17th-century british literature. What We Have, her first work of creative nonfiction, is a candid account of her family's discovery that they carry the BRCA1 mutation, the so-called "breast cancer gene."
More about Amy Boesky...
The Story Within: Personal Essays on Genetics and Identity What We Have: A Memoir Planet Was The Story Within Founding Fictions: Utopias in Early Modern England

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“That's how it is for me, thinking about the future. Two different shapes. One holding time; the other escaping it. One suggesting fragility, confinement; the other, something transcendent. Turn it one way, you see an hourglass. Turn it the other way, and you see wings.” 3 likes
“As I was coming to see, life makes its own calendar, and if you're wise, that's the one you follow.” 2 likes
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