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Survival Lessons

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  2,898 ratings  ·  510 reviews
Fifteen years ago, Alice Hoffman received a diagnosis that changed everything about the life she'd been living. Most significant, aside from the grueling physical ordeal she underwent, was the way it changed how she felt inside and what she thought she ought to be doing with her days. Now she has written the book that she needed to read then. In this honest, wise, and upbe ...more
Hardcover, 96 pages
Published October 1st 2013 by Algonquin Books
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Danica Midlil Hardcover says: Jacket painting by John Woodcock / iStockphoto
Photographs by Alice Hoffman
Hardcover says: Jacket painting by John Woodcock / iStockphoto
Photographs by Alice Hoffman

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Average rating 3.92  · 
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 ·  2,898 ratings  ·  510 reviews

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Nov 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
okay, bitches, i'm off to fight cancer again! thanks to everyone who has been kind to me, and i'm sorry i've been so distracted lately.

this is not the kind of book i would ordinarily read - on first glance, it seems like the kind of touchy-feely sentimental stuff i tend to avoid because i am a robot and all, but it was sent as part of a care package from the kind kind people of goodreads when i was going through my cancerish surgery over the summer, and GR-staffer suzanne said that alice munro
Jul 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such a beautiful little book :'(
Jon Nakapalau
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A powerful look at how to cope with a life altering condition (breast cancer) while still trying to live in the here and now; to be able to see the light when surrounded by shadowed questions is a lesson that Alice shares with the reader in a clam yet urgent way.
Somebody, somewhere will no doubt get comfort out of this very slim book. I was not one of those people. Did you know when you're struck with a serious, life-threatening illness you should surround yourself with people who love you? Do the things you've always wanted to do? Buy a puppy - but make sure someone is around to walk it when you can't, and promise to care for it if you die? The book was filled with these gems. I don't doubt this work of non-fiction arose out of Hoffman's personal exper ...more
Hoffman wrote this slim (83 pages) volume 15 years after her own bout with breast cancer to encourage anyone going through a crisis. Each chapter title begins with the word “Choose” – a reminder that, even when you can’t choose your circumstances, you can choose your response. For instance, “Choose Whose Advice to Take” and “Choose to Enjoy Yourself.” This has been beautifully put together with blue-tinted watercolor-effect photographs and an overall yellow and blue theme (along with deckle edge ...more
Cheryl McNeil
Jun 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a tiny book. Like, you will finish it in a little over an hour. At first I thought, no one who isn’t already terribly famous would be able to get away with this at a publishing house. All the rest of us have to shoot for the 40,000 word minimum. But after reading the book, I was no longer miffed. There is purpose and effectiveness that would be impossible without brevity. Hoffman — one of my favorite fiction writers — survived breast cancer 15 years ago. This isn’t a breast cancer memoir ...more
Renégade ♥
4 stars
Mary Chrapliwy
Nov 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley-books
This book was short, but mighty. It was beautifully written, as all Alice Hoffman's books are, and it touched me so deeply that it made me cry.

Alice Hoffman's writing is like reading poetry. She uses metaphor and simile just enough to give more weight and beauty to her words. I have enjoyed numerous works of Hoffman's fiction, so when I had the opportunity to read this book, I was delighted. This book was a little under 100 pages. Don't let the short length scare you away, the sparse pages are b
Michele Harrod
Aug 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alice could write a note and leave it on my bench telling me she was popping out for coffee - and I know it would be delightful. This is 83 pages of grace, as Alice reflects on the things she learned while going through cancer treatment. It's like a tiny pocket guide to remind you of the things in life that are worth living for. And how living can be done so beautifully... with a glitter pen and a note book. A great brownie recipe or a faithful puppy. The simplicity alone made this little gem ex ...more
Natalie Serber
Jul 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’m not going to lie, I picked up Alice Hoffman’s new book, "Survival Lessons," with a mixture of hope and trepidation. Hope that her exploration of her breast cancer journey would resonate with me in the wake of my own recent breast cancer experience. Hope that she would put into words some of my own feelings, my fears, and I might feel known. Trepidation, or maybe flat-out fear, that the book would come to a bad end, or that I would somehow not be able to connect and would end up feeling more ...more
Diane S ☔
This is a book to read to remind one's self that no matter how dark things get, there is always a better way and a different way of looking at things. So this is more of a road map for those in physical or mental distress who cannot figure out which way to go.

My favorite part of this novel was actually the prologue when Hoffman talks about her heroes, Anne Frank who always found something bright even in darkness and her own mother. It made this rather common sense book a little more special.
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2017
There are many things in these short chapters that we all need to hear periodically, even if we aren't dealing with cancer.. Like don't worry about how you look because no one looks great all the time and everyone looks older as they age. And do things you enjoy everyday even if they seem like a waste of time or others don't see the point. We each only have one life to live and it's yours. These pieces of advice sound trite, like a Hallmark card we've all read enough times. But Hoffman wrote thi ...more
Jul 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Survival Lessons by Alice Hoffman is a slim, light volume packed with valuable insight on how to survive the worst days of your life. A cancer survivor of 15 years, Hoffman shares her wisdom and reminds the reader to appreciate life's beauty that remains and surrounds us. Down-to-earth, simple & doable advice appears on every page. " You can't run away by ignoring the truth. Truth follows you; it comes in through open windows, and drifts under the door." Those who have suffered from a life alter ...more
Oct 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this in under an hour and now I want to run out and buy 10 copies to have on hand for when friends need this little book of wisdom.

I think Alice Hoffman would be a wonderful friend.
Oct 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
I find myself wanting to tell friends, family and complete strangers to read this quick but pretty powerful book. Very uplifting
Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: repeatable
A short, brisk, personable read. Memoir/self development. Could have been cliche but instead was wise and engaging. I’ll return to this again.
Nov 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes you select a book - and sometimes it selects you. I was up late, looking for some relief from the anxiety that accompanies the sleeplessness of a night before a CT scan, and scrolled somewhat listlessly through my e-book collection. I briefly considered buying yet another book, even though I have several dozen that I haven't even begun to read. As a matter of fact, some of them had been sitting around on my digital shelf long enough that I had no idea what they were about. Almost rando ...more
Sorrow comes in many forms, and Alice Hoffman's experience battling cancer and the wisdom she shares in this book after surviving it can apply to anyone carrying a burden of grief. Her words are conversational, wise and hopeful. In fact, this entire little book serves as a reminder that despite loss and heartache there is great beauty and joy in life--we must simply be willing to see it, to claim it for our own.

Here are a handful of quotes that particularly struck me.

~Because we were Russian, sa
Jun 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
In the past year I've lost one uncle I cared about greatly, two I didn't care so much about, two high school friends, watched others struggle with life and health, and struggled with those things myself. Usually those thin books of "helpful words" make me roll my eyes and cringe but this book? I want to buy a copy for everyone I know.

We all know that we should carpe diem, but Hoffman's wonderful prose and suggestions (I so want to take her trip to Italy for her! or with her!) brings it home just
Oct 10, 2013 rated it liked it
This book was okay.

I read it because I like Alice Hoffman. I'm probably going a bit easy on the book as a result.

It's not that this book was bad-- it wasn't. It's just been written before. Eat your dessert first, take the trip you've always wanted, dream big. Learn to knit, join a support group, throw a party. Carpe diem. Her lessons were true, and they were good-- but I didn't find this to be presented in a particularly new or profound way.

But like many things, simple can be good. I just wishe
Do yourself a favor and read this book. It took me about an hour but it is a little gem of a book. Meant for women dealing with serious illness, it is actually a survival guide for those dealing with life. Inspiring and thought provoking about what is truly important, and how to make the most out of each and every day that we have. I borrowed it from the library but plan to buy a copy so that I can re-read at certain times and remind myself to celebrate the fortune of good health.
Jackie Lane
Feb 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a warm and uplifting book about how to look at life when bad things happen. Alice Hoffman was diagnosed with breast cancer 15 years ago and this is a book of how she views life, what she learned, what would or did help her and just her fabulous outlook on life. This is the sort of book that you want to give to someone who is dealing a loss, tragedy or health issue.
Aug 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
This little blue and white treasure of a book was filled with so much joy, love and sadness that I nearly cried my way through all eighty-three pages of it...loved it!

Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
I knew I'd like this one when I saw Allison's rating; I've liked all AH novels that I've read. This small collection of lessons is uplifting. I'm always inspired by people who look for positive moments and ways to help others during, or in spite of, their own dark or painful times.
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not at all a novel- not what I expected. Hoffman dubs this a ‘guidebook’ in saying “All the while I was in treatment I was looking for a guidebook. I needed help in my new situation. I needed to know how people survived trauma.” When my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer 5 years ago, I said something of the sort. I wanted something to tell me the truth: none of the rainbows and sugar coated bullshit one sees in the oncologists offices or infusion centers. None of the inspirational talk show ...more
Without wishing to minimise Hoffman's personal experience or her own ways of coping with illness...I didn't get much out of this book. There is some lovely writing, and a few insights that resonated with me:
I would also want to invite Emily Dickinson, even though it is said that at some point she only spoke to callers through her bedroom door. That makes me love her all the more because I often feel exactly the same and want to hide away.

The truth is, some of your closest friends may disappear d
Jan 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gifts-to-give, 2014
When Alice Hoffman was diagnosed with breast cancer 15 years ago she began looking for some sort of book to guide her during this time, some insights, some thoughts on survival. She found nothing.

So here she is 15 years later writing a book for others. The last paragraph in the Preface she says "We all experience trauma and we all take a very personal path to healing on our own terms. But we're also alike in what we need most. Love really is the answer. I received so many gifts from friends and
Vikk Simmons
Alice Hoffman is a fine writer and a personal favorite. So it wouldn't be any surprise to learn that her latest release Survival Lessons is well-written. What may be a surprise is that it is such a short work (95 pages) and not fiction.

As a reader, you have to love anyone who says, as Hoffman does,"In my family, a book can be a life raft." And that is precisely what Hoffman wants to provide for her readers. Drawing from her years of battling cancer and experiencing loss, Hoffman reveals the how
Oct 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As always, Ms. Hoffman mines the truths of our lives and did so in her own. She made me cry at times, especially when her distillation rang like Waterford. While I'm no wimp in facing mortality, she reminded me of joys in the process and joys in pushing away the inevitable. Laughed out loud when she connected her first dog Houdini with what she needed in a husband. Afterward I enjoyed spinach lasagna for dinner with apple-cranberry coconut crumble for dessert. Life's short. Read well, eat well, ...more
Lisa Putnam
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful little gem that I devoured in one sitting.
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Alice Hoffman is the author of more than thirty works of fiction, including The World That We Knew, The Rules of Magic, The Marriage of Opposites, Practical Magic, The Red Garden, the Oprah’s Book Club selection Here on Earth, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, and The Dovekeepers. Her most recent novel is The World That We Knew. She lives near Boston.

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