Petra X's Reviews > Needles: A Memoir of Growing Up with Diabetes

Needles by Andie Dominick
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Feb 20, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: biography-true-story, medicine-science

This book is exactly what it says it is which is a memoir of growing up with diabetes and is not a memoir in general of Andie Dominick's sister's life, but only where diabetes has touched it. This could have made for a very depressing and disjointed book but the writing is so spot-on - detail where you want it, brevity where an episode is necessarily included but is not interesting in itself.

It's educational too. I had thought that type 1 diabetes was a matter of insulin injections and balancing the diet. I hadn't really thought it was a tremendously serious systemic disease that needs attention throughout the day, everyday, and will impact just about every aspect of life. I hadn't thought that without constant care it could lead to major disabilities and premature death. It is to the credit of people with diabetes that they don't foist all that on us and let people happily think they are just like normal but have carry sugar cubes and stick a needle into themselves a couple of times a day.

I have a niece who was diagnosed with diabetes when she was 9. Rather than let her eat special meals, the whole family went on a diabetes-approved diet, essentially whole foods and they all took plenty of exercise and kept regular getting-up and going-to-sleep hours. You might think that this would result in them all being healthier, but no. The mother became a paranoid schizophrenic and the elder sister died of cancer, leaving a little boy who turned four the week after his mother's desk. I don't know what happened to the father... he left. But Jessamine, who is a most responsible social worker now, is in excellent health apart from the diabetes, although she never dared risk having a child.

My niece's happy story isn't everyone's experience of this dread disease and the book is a memoir not fiction so it doesn't end 'happy ever after' and it left me feeling quite bereft, lonely and hopeless.

I would recommend this book to people who like reading memoirs generally and especially if they like medical stories. No need to have any connection to diabetes to enjoy this beautifully-written book.

Read in 2009, skimmed through and reviewed in 2012.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
February 20, 2012 – Shelved
February 20, 2012 – Shelved as: biography-true-story
February 20, 2012 – Shelved as: medicine-science
February 20, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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message 1: by Ij (new)

Ij Great review!!!

People in the US are getting more overweight. Weight loss, diet, and exercise can put a big dent in type-2 diabetes.


message 2: by Jeanette (new)

Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" Last summer I lost a friend to complications from diabetes. We were friends for 27 years. I miss her oh so much, but I am glad her suffering is over. The older she got, the more painful and limited her life became. Such a cruel disease. Like you, Petra, I feel "bereft, lonely and hopeless."
I'm glad your niece is enjoying good health. The healthy diet must have been a big factor in her case.


message 3: by Leyoh (new)

Leyoh Type 1 is a terrible disease, it has left one of my colleagues nearly blind and a family members daughter came close to killing her in pregnancy due to leeching all of her insulin. Why you would allow yourself to get Type 2 through over indulgence is beyond me. I'll nor read, too sad and aggravating but thanks for sharing in the review.


Petra X People are kind of brought up to get diabetes. Here it is the norm to have two major meals a day, lunch and dinner (plus breakfast). The meal will be fish, meat or chicken plus rice, at least two ground provisions like tannia, dasheen or yam, plus potatoes and/or sweet potatoes. There will be a veg. or salad or cole slaw. Maybe even a portion of macaroni cheese. And some bread. And maybe some tart or cake to finish. It's just far too much starch.

In the UK where the traditional diet is meat and two veg. one of them being a starch, not many people got type 2 diabetes, but with the huge growth in fast food and ready-prepared meals, everyone is overdoing the starches.

When you watch tv, all those ads for Olive Garden, MacDonalds, Pizza Hut and the rest make out their food is so wonderful and the experience so enjoyable and look they have a special of a cheese-stuffed double crust pizza or as-much-as-you-want pasta and there you go. Promoting diabetes in just the same way as cigarette ads promote lung cancer.


message 5: by Katherine (new)

Katherine Cowley That's why I like memoirs--sometimes in fiction authors try too hard for "happy endings," which can cheapen the real struggles and hardships that people face.

My brother is currently in Argentina, doing service in really poor areas. He worked with a twenty-year old who has known he had diabetes since he was three or four, but has never done anything to treat it because he doesn't have the education or the money to do so. In a several week period he almost died several times, and ended up in the hospital with multiple other health problems as a result.


Petra X I wonder if fiction with sad endings sells as well as one where a satisfactory conclusion is reached?


message 7: by Fazebook (new)

Fazebook I can't think of any books with sad endings.


Petra X Fazebook wrote: "I can't think of any books with sad endings."

The Little Mermaid, not the Disney version, but the original one.


message 9: by Katherine (new)

Katherine Cowley I do think there is a lot less fiction published with sad endings, and publishers probably have reasons for it. We have, over the last century, leaned a lot more heavily towards "Disney-fied," happy endings--as you said, the Disney version of the Little Mermaid is so incredibly different Hans Christian Andersen's. I can think of some sad fiction that has done really well, things like Chenua Achebe's Things Fall Apart and Beatrice and Virgil (a sort of Holocaust story by the author of Life of Pi). You also have some popular movies that have pulled it off--Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith is a tragedy, though it received a lot of fan hate, and Pan's Labyrinth is more of a traditional fairy tale, with plenty of brutality, and an ambivalent, but definitely negative, ending. For many genres of fiction (romance, fantasy, etc.) we expect rather happy endings, but in others (horror, historical, etc.) we'll allow for a bit more of the sad. You go back to the Greeks and they basically had two genres--tragedy and comedy--and they were consumed rather equally.


message 10: by Gayle (new)

Gayle "People are kind of brought up to get diabetes." Growing up in the southern U.S., you are also brought up to have heart disease--everything, including veggies, was cooked in fat. Most of my mom's veggies included salt pork, great taste but lethal! I also got dessert as a reward for eating everything on my plate! It took me 50 years to get out of that habit, hopefully not too late.

As usual, great review, Petra. How do you select the books that you choose to read?


Petra X Gayle wrote: "How do you select the books that you choose to read? "

I buy a lot of remainders and not just UK/US ones, anything in English. Partly because they are cheaper and partly because I try to give my bookshop a different identity and selection from the mainstream. I find much more unusual books in remainder lists from the better outlets than looking at the main suppliers like Ingram or researching through Amazon or Goodreads, both of whom turn up popular books and current books. Daedalus is a fantastic source of interesting books and also has a retail outlet. Also, a lot of remainders are not available as ebooks.

I then buy anything I want for myself, far more than I could ever read, then try and sell the books first. If they don't sell I take them home. If I look at the book in the shop (art books, which hardly ever sell, but I can't resist buying them) then it goes on sale, if I take it home it never goes back to the shop, I don't sell used books!


message 12: by Gayle (new)

Gayle Daedalus is a fantastic source of interesting books and also has a retail outlet.

Thanks for that info, bookmarked it.


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