Should You Take Joyce Maynard’s Cancer Book on Vacation?

Deciding whether to pack Joyce Maynard’s new memoir, The Best of Us.

Deciding whether to pack Joyce Maynard’s new memoir, The Best of Us.

Deciding Whether to Pack Maynard’s New Memoir, The Best of Us

So many of us either have cancer, had cancer, or have a friend or a family member afflicted with same that we might be disinclined to bring along a book covering the cancer journey of someone else on our next trip. But still, this book dealing with cancer was written by Joyce Maynard, the “I had a fling with J. D. Salinger” author, the woman who’s led a successful career as a writer while simultaneously being a parent (and a single one for a great deal of time), the writing entrepreneur who managed to buy homes in New England and in Guatemala, the boomer who late in life married a handsome lawyer in a ceremony covered by the New York Times. The Best of Us beckons despite the darkness that lurks within.

And yet, the work is hopeful—despite the handsome lawyer husband’s sickness, despite Maynard’s earlier effort in adopting two girls and then ‘rehoming’ them when things did not go exactly according to plan, and despite lurking financial challenges even when one has had enormous literary and commercial success. Who wouldn’t want to find out more about a successful writer who has to try online dating when she is single, shoulder a bigger work burden when her new husband gets sick, and then carry on just like the rest of us do, whether cancer is a problem in our sphere or not?

I like learning about Maynard, even though I don’t quite feel comfortable about that breezy adoption and its fallout. She struggles, though, like the rest of us, trying to make the right decisions, sometimes making wrong ones, and looking for a bit of happiness even when life events are turning grim.

So more power to her. Maynard is an adventurer all the way through, and she guides her readers in ways to deal with twists and turns that none of us anticipated, no matter how good-hearted we were, or are.

Bring it along. The Best of Us is about cancer, but it is also about life and how to live it well and how to keep on. Some see the work as a love story; to me, it is a work about finding and keeping strength.

The Best of Us by Joyce Maynard (Bloomsbury Publishing 2017).

—Lori Tripoli


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