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Book Review: 'Between Two Kingdoms' Is A Heartbreaking, Inspiring Celebration Of Humanity

During a visit to my local bookstore a couple weeks ago, a bookseller ushered me over to the nonfiction table and grabbed a copy of Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad. “A Memoir of a Life Interrupted” was the subtitle. On the cover, a photo of the author and her terrier, Oscar, atop a goldenrod-colored Volkswagen bus.

Hmmm, I dunno, I thought. But Anne, the bookseller, was insistent. It’s more than a medical memoir, she said. More than a book about surviving cancer. Then she turned to a map that spanned the first couple pages of the book. It showed a road-trip route across the United States, and it was dotted with people’s names -- Katherine, Max, Nitasha, Lil’ GQ.

This memoir chronicles the author’s harrowing battle with leukemia, which—spoiler alert—she survives. But Anne was right: It’s so much more. When Jaouad gets a tentative all-clear after nearly four years of chemotherapy and a life-saving bone marrow transplant, she takes off on a journey to meet and thank some of the strangers who had written to her during her years in the hospital. She visits a psychic in Detroit, survivalists in Montana, a death-row inmate in Texas. She calls it her Hundred-Day Project. Along the way she describes not only the scenery, but her personal struggle to reenter the world of the living.

Between Two Kingdoms is both heartbreaking and inspiring, and ultimately a celebration of humanity. I closed the cover with a satisfied sigh and a renewed focus on living life to the fullest— just like Anne said.

Suzanne Perez is a longtime journalist covering education and general news for KMUW and the Kansas News Service. Suzanne reviews new books for KMUW and is the co-host with Beth Golay of the Books & Whatnot podcast. Follow her on Twitter @SuzPerezICT.