Publication Date: February 9, 2021
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In this searing memoir of illness and recovery, an Emmy Award-winning writer traces her journey from diagnosis to remission, and ultimately her cross-country road trip of healing and self-discovery.
In the summer of 2010, Suleika Jaouad had just graduated from college, preparing, as they say in commencement speeches, to enter “the real world.” She had fallen in love and moved to Paris to pursue her dream of becoming a war correspondent. The “real world” she found, however, would take her into a very different kind of conflict zone.
It started with an itch—first on her feet, then migrating up her legs—like a thousand mosquito bites. Then came the exhaustion, and the six-hour naps that only seemed to deepen her fatigue. Then came a trip to the doctor and, a few weeks shy of her twenty-third birthday, a diagnosis: leukemia, with a 35 percent chance of survival. Just like that, the life she had imagined for herself was engulfed in flames. By time she boarded a plane home to New York, she had lost her job, her apartment, and her independence. She would spend much of the next four years confined to a hospital bed, fighting for her life.
When Suleika finally walked out of the hospital—after three and a half years of chemo, a clinical trial, and a bone marrow transplant—she was, according to the doctors, “cured.” But as she would soon learn, a cure is not where the work of healing ends; it’s where it begins. She had spent the past 1,500 days in desperate pursuit of one goal—to survive. And now that she’d done so, she realized she had no idea how to live.
Suleika embarked—with her new best friend, Oscar, a scruffy terrier mutt—on a 100-day, 15,000-mile road trip across the country. She set out to meet some of the strangers who had written to her during her years in the hospital: a teenage girl in Florida also recovering from cancer; a teacher in California grieving the death of her son; a death row inmate in Texas who had also spent years confined in a room. What she learned on this trip is that the divide between the sick and the well doesn’t really exist. It is porous, and the vast majority of us will travel back and forth between these realms throughout our lives.
Between Two Kingdoms is a profound chronicle of survivorship and a fierce, inspiring exploration of what it means to begin again.
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