Suleika Jaouad was 22 when a cancer diagnosis "formed an irreparable fracture" in her life: before and after. In Between Two Kingdoms, she revisits both parts of her life to forge a path forward after remission. Drawing on journals, medical records, letters, e-mails and interviews with many of those who appear across its pages, Jaouad's memoir details her early symptoms, initial diagnosis and then, in great detail, the physical, mental and emotional toll cancer takes on her and those around her. Though heavy, Jaouad's story is steeped in a wry optimism. This is in part because readers know Jaouad will survive to write this book, but it is also a testament to what makes Between Two Kingdoms so compelling: Jaouad's uncanny ability to reach into her pain and turn it into something else. She does not deny or gloss over the challenges of her diagnosis or the gut-wrenching torture of some of her treatments, yet she reckons with ways these impossible years of her life forged her into the woman she has since become.
In keeping with the murky waters of cancer diagnoses, there is no clear point in Between Two Kingdoms when Jaouad moves from "sick" to "healthy." This fact drives her to make a cross-country road trip to visit the many strangers who wrote to her throughout her illness, responding to her New York Times column about her experience. The trip is an attempt to understand the gray space between the two, and to make a life for herself there.
Her account of this journey--both literal and metaphorical--forms the heart of Between Two Kingdoms. The book is a medical memoir, a coming-of-age story, a reckoning and a beginning, all rolled into one. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm