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The Undying: Pain, Vulnerability, Mortality, Medicine, Art, Time, Dreams, Data, Exhaustion, Cancer, and Care
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The Undying: Pain, Vulnerability, Mortality, Medicine, Art, Time, Dreams, Data, Exhaustion, Cancer, and Care

4.41  ·  Rating details ·  165 ratings  ·  43 reviews
Award-winning poet and essayist Anne Boyer delivers a one-of-a-kind meditation on pain, vulnerability, mortality, medicine, art, time, space, exhaustion, and economics—sharing her true story of coping with cancer, both the illness and the industry, in The Undying.

A week after her forty-first birthday, the acclaimed poet Anne Boyer was diagnosed with highly aggressive tri
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 17th 2019 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Average rating 4.41  · 
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 ·  165 ratings  ·  43 reviews

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In 2014, Boyer, then a 41-year-old poet and professor at the Kansas City Art Institute (and a single mother) was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. The book’s subtitle gives you clues to the sort of practical and emotional territory that’s covered here. Although she survived this highly aggressive cancer, she was not unscathed: the particular chemotherapy she had is so toxic it leads to lasting nerve damage and a brain fog that hasn’t completely lifted.

All the more impressive, then, t
Aug 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: giveaways
I received an advance reader copy of The Undying: Pain, Vulnerability, Mortality, Medicine, Art, Time, Dreams, Data, Exhaustion, Cancer, and Care as part of a Goodreads Giveaway that may not have been wise for me to enter. Like the author Anne Boyer, I have triple-negative breast cancer, but there are so many differences in our situations: my cancer is stage 4, so I'll never be "cured" or have a "last chemo day" to look forward to; mine is due to a genetic mutation; I haven't had a mastectomy, ...more
I won this book in a goodreads drawing.

A woman gets breast cancer, and being a writer, decides to write about it. She writes about various historical sick people, and the side effects of the disease and the medicine. Depressing, but interesting.
Sep 21, 2019 added it
i won't disparage this book with metrics, not gonna rate it. you should read it, though.
Publication Date: September 17th, 2019
A big thank you to the publishers, the author, and NetGalley for gifting me the e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

Poetic at times factual at others, The Undying was an emotional read. It is not a book I can say “I enjoyed” but I can say I learned from it, that I experienced growth because of it. It is not an easy book by any means, both because of its subject matter and because of its academic, but still feeling, approach to the topic. We hear about c
Brenda Scanzillo
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
In The Undying, Anne Boyer says, “I have always wanted to write the most beautiful book against beauty.” As a poet, her choice of vocabulary and use of language as she writes about the horrors of breast cancer - not just the physical horrors but the societal and economic horrors - is so beautifully moving you won’t be able to put it down. I was flying last weekend and recommended the book to a woman sitting next to me who overheard me talking about it to my fiancé and asked about it because her ...more
A breathtaking, acerbic account of breast cancer and the problematic societal discussions about health and care. Admittedly, my own experiences overlap with Boyer's to an uncanny extent, same type of breast cancer, the similar treatment plan, tumor size and location nearly identical, and vastly similar outlooks. This book, not something pink and heartwarming, should be what doctors provide patients to feel less alone.
May 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I have recently been lucky enough to win a lot of Goodreads giveaways, but most of them, to my dismay, have been kindle books. 'When am I going to get a book I can hold, smell, and flip through the pages?' I wondered. And then I won this book. Of all books. The Undying is a collection of powerful essays about a woman's account with cancer, something that I have personally have had to deal with and has affected my life in many aspects from 2011 up until this very day, May 30th, 2019. How coincide ...more
"To be declared with certainty ill while feeling with certainty fine is to fall on the hardness of language without being given even an hour of soft uncertainty in which to steady oneself with preemptive worry, aka now you don't have a solution to a problem, now you have a specific name for a life breaking in two. Illness that never bothered to announce itself to the senses radiates in screen life, as light is sound and is information encrypted, unencrypted, circulated, analyzed, rated, studied, ...more
Debra Oehlberg
Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My feelings are mixed. I have several pros and cons. First of all, I thought the cover was totally appropriate to represent cancer and its treatment, even though I personally hate snakes to the point that I don't like seeing pics of them. I do feel like Ann covered nearly everything she could about the behind-the-scenes details of cancer, from financial, treatment options, ways others treat you and your decisions, family, friends, making a difference, trying to survive. It was very thorough. She ...more
Paisley Green
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"I do not want to tell the story of cancer in the way that I have been taught to tell it. The way I have been taught to tell the story is a person would be diagnosed, treated, either live or die. If she lives, she will be heroic. If she dies, she will be a plot point. If she lives, she will say something fierce, her fierceness applauded, or perform the absolutions of gratitude, her gratitude praised. . . . If this were a novel, a sick person would discover that she is a reincarnated version of J ...more
Jun 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is truly a gift. I am unsure where to begin this review because I find myself still spellbound from by Boyer's writing.

I have read many memoirs exploring the trauma of breast cancer, including many of the books cited by Boyer in her own writing (e.g., Audre Lorde, Susan Sontag, etc.). These previous writers have beautifully captured their harrowing breast cancer journey and their stories continue to resonate today. I predict that Boyer's book will be touted in much the same way as her
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Anne Boyer describes the diagnosis, treatment, and aftermath of her triple negative breast cancer in The Undying, an urgent, furious, and gut-wrenching memoir in poetic essays. It is part literary criticism, reviewing the canon of literature about illness and cancer and interweaving those perspectives with her own, and part criticism of the cancer industry and the social, environmental, and personal impacts of cancer drugs and research trials and pink ribbons and empty promises and war metaphors ...more
Sep 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Undying is not a book to dip in and out of. Boyer's writing is so dense it demands your full concentration (and rightly so). It takes a little getting used to, but once you get into the flow of it, it's totally absorbing.

There are times when the writing becomes too dense, occasionally even teetering on hopelessly overwrought. It's frustrating to lose sight of the meaning in myth and metaphor. But thankfully, those passages are overshadowed by the brilliance of other sections. I highlighted s
Richard Santos
Aug 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is too much. Too poetic. Too painful. Too brilliant. Too emotional. Too sarcastic. Too truthful. Too searing. Too reflective of your own experiences or the experiences of someone you love. Too everything.

Boyer was achieved something pretty special here. She has produced a book that will take a place on the shelves right next to every other classic book about the ill and illness.

She’s a brilliant poet and this memoir is the scraped out soul of her experience. I dogeared about every fi
Jul 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lyrical and beautiful memoir of breast cancer. I hate calling it that, because it is also so much more. The author positions everything within the history of historical women with breast cancer, and the history of what it is/was to be a person with an illness or a sickness. Mythology is woven throughout as well. It's like reading an eloquent piece from a humanities professor about what it is to be human only it's all wrapped around her experience with breast cancer. A scathing indictment of ou ...more
E.G. Cunningham
Oct 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"For within living structures defined by profit, by linear power, by institutional dehumanization, our feelings were not meant to survive. Kept around as unavoidable adjuncts or pleasant pastimes, feelings were expected to kneel to thought as women were expected to kneel to men. But women have survived." -Audre Lorde

"If this book had to exist, I wanted it to be a minor form of reparative magic, for it to expropriate the force of literature away from literature, manifest the communism of the unl
Jul 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
I won an advanced copy of this book on Goodreads. This book was written with passion and soul. Not an ordinary book written about breast cancer and the hardships that go along with it. It made me think of all the cases I have seen and helped advocate for as a medical person and how I tried my best to be compassionate for all the women who went through it. This book is eye opening and filled with honest and sincerity and provokes a lot of emotion, like anger, anger with the people who faked their ...more
The Undying is a grim look at one woman’s treatment of triple negative breast cancer. After finishing my own chemotherapy for the same type of cancer last month, I put my brave face on and decided to read the book to compare our treatments. I believe the author is overthinking the whole experience with her intellectual and philosophical knowledge. But that could be a difference in our personalities, too. Our chemotherapies were the same, but I never viewed myself as a sick and abandoned animal. ...more
Aug 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
The best way I can describe this book is as a poetic way of getting down in the trenches with a woman suffering with breast cancer.

It is not a "victim to survivor" tale. It is not a "victim to tragic martyr" tale either.

It is a raw account of the suffering that cancer has brought, the suffering of treatment choices and the effects of those choices, it is the suffering of societal backlash, it is the suffering of having one's mortality shoved in their face and all that this entails.

This book at
Cassie (book__gal)
Sep 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Anne Boyer makes the point in her book, The Undying, that we should be given a guide for death as soon as we are born. She’s not wrong. Death is, perhaps, the only truly universal human circumstance? Why is it then, that facing death, via cancer in Boyer’s instance, can be so isolating and lonely? And how to reconcile this with the fact that your body is being opened, cut, prodded, examined, codified, defined by doctors, staff, family, friends, constantly — which is the opposite of isolation. Bo ...more
Katy Wheatley
I was given a copy of this via Netgalley in exchange for a review. I found this really hard work. It sits somewhere between a memoir and an academic study and for me, it never found the sweet spot between the two. I spent a lot of time lost as I didn't understand the references and to be honest, was not invested enough in it to go and do my research. I like to immerse myself in reading, and having to look things up every five minutes is the opposite of why I read. It feels like the author had to ...more
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When I first starting reading this, it was hard to follow but a few pages in it all clicked into place and it became paced in such a way that felt very human. Like talking with a friend; pauses in the right places for reflection and reaction but without it feeling prolonged. Even when incorporating an outside source, regardless of what it was it was so familiarly spoken about that it wasn't overwhelming as a reader.
It is beautifully poetic. The cover is so symbolic and reflective of the reading
Camille Derichs
Jun 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Undying deserves to be read at least once. It not only has a wonderful prose on an important topic, but Boyer also mentions how much sympathy or goodwill is taken advantage of as well. It tells about marketing schemes, struggle and capitalism that is ongoing in the world and tries to open the eyes of the reader to what is actually happening around them. The Undying is an intimate book that captures the reader and doesn't let go until it is finished telling the truth.
Oct 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“Every person with a body is a secret historian, at work on the same volume: skin as the annals of sensation, genitals as jokes told by fools, teeth as the rise and fall of what bites.” - Anne Boyer

A philosophical, personal, and painful journal of breast cancer. I have read many memoirs on illness and/or dying, Boyer surpasses them all.
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautiful and ugly, cerebral and visceral book. If you’re looking for a feel-good read about surviving cancer, this isn’t the pink-beribboned read you want. There are plenty of those. This book is fairly short, but took me a long time to read because I could only process a little at a time. Brilliant.
Yuni Chang
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: meditations
"mortality is a gorgeous framework. what a relief to have not been protected, i decided, to not be a subtle or delicate person whose inner experience is made only of taste and polite feeling; what a relief not to collect tiny wounds as if they are the greatest injuries while all the rest of the world always, really, actually bleeds."
Tea Leaves and Reads
I received this as an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. The format was awful - missing words, lines unfinished, even words not finished. It was a huge mess. Feedback given to publisher and netgalley- couldn't even begin to muddle through.
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway and I am so glad I did. It is exquisite and heartbreaking. It is insanely beautiful and infuriating. It exposes the effects of late capitalism and the medicalization of suffering and so much more. I didn’t want to stop reading it.
Carol Turner
Oct 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's been so long since my own diagnosis and treatment that the trauma has (mostly) faded into the mists. Boyer's triple negative was far worse than my stage 1, but her descriptions were right on and her poet's brain said things my less poetic writing could not.
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