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The Undying

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  504 ratings  ·  101 reviews
Award-winning poet and essayist Anne Boyer delivers a one-of-a-kind meditation on illness in the age of data—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 triple-negative breast cancer. For a single mother living
320 pages
Published (first published September 17th 2019)
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Average rating 4.32  · 
Rating details
 ·  504 ratings  ·  101 reviews

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Aug 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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,
Amy Bruestle
Dec 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won this book through a giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

Holy smokes! There was A LOT captured in this book! I was a tad hesitant at first, not sure if it was really a book for me. I was proven wrong, and proven wrong quickly, at that!

Not only does this book touch on many different topics, it also makes you feel. Like, really, FEEL. Whether you have been through the exact same experience, whether you know someone who has, whether you don’t have any experience whatsoever with the
Jul 22, 2019 rated it liked it
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.
i won't disparage this book with metrics, not gonna rate it. you should read it, though.
Oct 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
best book i have read this year
Brenda Scanzillo
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 08, 2019 rated it liked it
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
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
Dec 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A book which takes the reader, a person who is maybe sick but will definitely be sick sometime in the future, on a journey from sickness to health, or dying to...undying. Anne Boyer is a poet and knows that to live in the world is not to simply exist in it, but to participate in it, to be supported in it and to love and be loved in it, to act in it. It’s also about the isolating experience of sickness in capitalist hetero-patriarchal white supremacist America and fighting that with care and ...more
Dec 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Having had cancer myself (not breast cancer), i was interested in reading this book. I don't think i could add much more to what already has been said, but will say it's worth a read.

My thanks to Netgalley and the Publishers for my copy. This is my honest review, which i have voluntarily given.
Ai Miller
Nov 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was difficult to approach at first, I think honestly because I haven't read anything like it, but as I got into it, it was SO mind-boggling and really forced me to think about not only narratives around cancer but health generally. Boyer doesn't go much into disability or crip studies, which might have put her in conversation with some really interesting lines of thought (I, certainly, would have LOVED to see some of that, and would love to talk with folks who have read both some disability ...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
Oct 29, 2019 rated it liked it
This isn't the kind of book anyone is going to pick up for funsies and light reading - so most likely you're either a survivor, surviving, or the loved one of a survivor or someone who didn't survive. The subject matter itself makes this book hard to "rate," I mean how do you rate someone else's breast cancer experience, that sounds asinine in itself - but it is a published book and open to critique like any other book.

This is exactly the book I'd expect a university tenured poet to write about
Dec 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
whooaooaoawwow can't get over this piece of genius- tender comprehensive real brilliance. Anne Boyer is so smart, this is obvious. and she approaches a piece about health, cancer, care, capitalism, gender, sixkness...etc..with such a unique voice. this is necessary! It is poetry and prose and it invokes such incredible voices and stories of writers and women and people who have experienced such pain and aloneness. The whole time I was reading it I knew I was missing so much of it. But maybe that ...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.
beautiful reflection on embodiment pain and death under capitalism
Kathy Nealen
Nov 26, 2019 rated it liked it
My life and personality are very different from the author; and, my breast cancer diagnosis (twice!) was different ( all positive where hers was all negative). I did not suffer physical pain from the disease and not much physical pain from the treatment so I guess I was protected a little from that constant reminder of my illness. In spite of these differences, I still found much in this memoir that reflected my thoughts and feelings during treatment and many years of follow up.

Once you haven
Dec 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book, well, it kind of ruined my day, which is another way of saying it's a devastating book. It's also a necessary book. Anne Boyer does more than reveal the misogyny, classism, racism and other injustices laden in the breast cancer industrial complex and healthcare in general. She also untangles deceptions that have led many of us to put troubling, unflinching faith in a system that cashes in on our ignorance and other failures. This is a book I cannot forget.
Nov 25, 2019 rated it liked it
2.5 stars. I picked this book up since I have lost a couple of friends to breast cancer. It was not at all what I was expecting. While I enjoyed parts of it, the author's style is just not for me. She's a poet, so the book was more a series of essays than a memoir. Although her writing is lovely, of course, it is abstract, and I was left wanting a more traditional, concrete memoir. She did make some interesting points about cancer treatment in the US and documented her assertions well -- a good ...more
May 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Katy Wheatley
Oct 12, 2019 rated it liked it
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
Anna Miller
Oct 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
I loved this book the way I love running - it was unpleasant to read but I got something really good out of it. Boyer painted with uncompromising honesty the reality of being sick in a world that is trying to convince you that the narrative of your illness is set in stone. I will never look at a pink ribbon again without wanting to punch someone.

However, I am deeply distrustful of someone who uses the word "heuristic" multiple in a memoir. At times, it felt like Boyer was trying to shout from
Oct 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“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.
Debra Oehlberg
Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
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  ·  review of another edition
"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 ...more
Jun 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Dec 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Book Review The Undying

Summary: The book “The Undying” tells the tragic story of what it’s like to have breast cancer, the experience the pain, and compares it to other occupations with breast cancer in history. Anne Boyer is a single mother living paycheck to paycheck trying to attend and care for her one daughter. She tells the ecological cost of chemotherapy and so on, this book gives you a rollercoaster of emotions, hate, empathy, sadness and so on.

What did you like/dislike about the
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
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“Suppose for a moment the claims about pain’s ineffability are historically specific and ideological, that pain is widely declared inarticulate for the reason that we are not supposed to share a language for how we really feel.” 1 likes
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