Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Undying” as Want to Read:
The Undying
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Undying

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  2,296 ratings  ·  380 reviews
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 paycheck to paycheck who had always been the caregiver rather than the one needing care, the catastrophic illness was both a crisis and an initiation into new ideas about mortality and the gendered politics of i ...more
320 pages
Published (first published September 17th 2019)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Undying, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Undying

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.19  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,296 ratings  ·  380 reviews

Sort order
Start your review of The Undying
Elyse  Walters
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2020 - non-fiction

The author, Anne Boyer, is a cancer survivor. ( highly aggressive triple-negative breast cancer)....a poet, single mother, living paycheck to paycheck.

Anne Boyer’s book is amazing. She wrote about her experience... every inch of it.
I literally could have highlighted her words on almost every page.

Anne said....
“she had abandoned this book at least a thousand times, a number that does not include the innumerable other destructions inherent in w
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 mastectom ...more
Mary Deacon
May 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written book. Well deserving of the Pulitzer.
Winner of the Pulitzer for Non-Fiction 2020

In 2014, at the age of 41, poet and essayist Anne Boyer is diagnosed with cancer. Not just that, but a particularly aggressive form of necrotic breast cancer with uncertain odds of survival. Added to that: She is a single mother, living in the States, no savings. She has no partner or family nearby to help care for her. Moreover: Each chemotherapy infusion session costs more than her annual salary. This is her story.

To call this book a memoir would be
Canadian Reader
This is an extremely cerebral work—very literary, very allusive—in which the author, a poet, philosophically and elliptically considers her breast cancer. I’m afraid I found it very hard going. I believe I could have pushed through, but I made the decision that I simply wasn’t committed enough to make the effort. I did not finish the book.
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
i won't disparage this book with metrics, not gonna rate it. you should read it, though. ...more
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
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 poin
Jan 11, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: audible
I’m marking this book finished but I did not finish it. In fact I can’t abide another minute of it. I realized as soon as she quoted some ancient philosopher I was not going to like it but since it was only five hours and I’d used a credit on it I was determined to grit my teeth and get through it. But I can’t. I was a philosophy major (albeit many many years ago) and I can’t understand half of what she’s saying. Even if could I truly detest books written by academicians who apply literature and ...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
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
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. ...more
some mushroom dude
Oct 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
best book i have read this year
Areeb Ahmad (Bankrupt_Bookworm)
Simply put, one of the best nonfiction books I will ever read in my life. Boyer's mind is astonishing. Her spectacular intellect is matched by some seriously amazing use of language. RTC. ...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
Feb 13, 2020 rated it liked it
This book was interesting. very sad and very hard to read at points. but powerful and beautiful. not an enjoyable reading experience.
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.
Fucking gorgeous, I want to buy a copy for everyone I know and love.
A. H. Reaume
Jun 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
I liked this book but Boyer really needed to do a bit more research into pain and disability. She claims that pain is mostly visible. Um no. As someone with an invisible disability who everyone think is okay because I always look fine even when I’m in pain - this is very harmful. Many disabled people with chronic pain have to keep living their lives so become good at hiding pain. We also culturally struggle to see the pain of marginalized people like people of colour or black people. See all the ...more
Vincent Scarpa
May 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“A widely held notion about pain seems to be that it ‘destroys language.’ But pain doesn’t destroy language: it changes it. What is difficult is not impossible. That English lacks an adequate lexicon for all that hurts doesn’t mean it always will, just that the poets and marketplaces that have invented our dictionaries have not — when it comes to suffering — done the necessary work.”
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
Jul 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“Disease is never neutral. Treatment never not ideological. Mortality never without its politics.”

This book (by one of my favorite writers) has been called a memoir, but could also be described as a poem, a series of essays, a history, or a Marxist feminist manifesto on breast cancer. I think I could write a hundred reviews of this book, each from a different perspective. I could write a review that approaches this book from the perspective of spirituality and dreams. I could write a review that
Jan 31, 2021 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 11, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A single-mom poet, diagnosed at 41 with aggressive breast cancer, writes a short book with a broad scope about her personal experiences, female intellectuals lost to cancer, the modern cancer industrial complex, and more. Some sections work better than others. 3.5 stars rounding up.
Traci at The Stacks
The content was super interesting and different way to talk about cancer and the cancer industry than I’d seen. Some of the poetic sentences are just outstanding. The form sometimes confused me or took me out of it. Couldn’t focus on the book.
"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
Jan 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography-memoir
A ferocious memoir about breast cancer. I learned how to be a better friend, also how medical practitioners, cancer charities and Big Pharma do cancer sufferers a disservice. But, Anne Boyer's poetic sensibility sometimes gets in the way of comprehension. She pushes thought and metaphor to such extremes that I found myself reading, rereading and reading again before moving on. In the end, the reading was labored. I'm not sure whether I'd recommend this to someone with a new breast cancer diagnos ...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.
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America
  • Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America
  • Time Is the Thing a Body Moves Through
  • Having and Being Had
  • Females
  • The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us
  • The Unreality of Memory: And Other Essays
  • The Cancer Journals
  • Wild Milk
  • Red at the Bone
  • Akin
  • Renia's Diary: A Holocaust Journal
  • The Crying Book
  • The Beautiful Ones
  • Index Cards: Selected Essays
  • Being Numerous: Essays on Non-Fascist Life
  • Daddy Issues
  • The Memoirs of a Survivor
See similar books…
See top shelves…

News & Interviews

Believe it or not, we're halfway through 2021! As is our tradition, this is the time when the Goodreads editorial team burrows into our data to...
113 likes · 81 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“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.” 6 likes
“The exhausted are the saints of the wasted life, if a saint is a person who is better than others at suffering. What the exhausted suffer better is the way bodies and time are so often at odds with each other in our time of overwhelming and confused chronicity, when each hour is amplified past circadianism, quadrupled in the quarter-hour's agenda, Pomodoro-ed, hacked, FOMO-ed, and productivized. The exhausted are the human evidence of each minute misunderstood to be an empire for finance, of each human body misunderstood to be an instrument that should play a thousand compliant songs at once.” 4 likes
More quotes…