Lise Marzouk translated from the French by Adriana Hunter

If

A Mother's Memoir


Publication Date: Oct 29, 2019

320 pp

Ebook

List Price US $10.99
ISBN: 978-1-59051-096-4

Trade Paperback

List Price US $16.99
Trim Size (H x W): 5.25 x 8
ISBN: 978-1-59051-097-1


An eloquent, heartfelt account of a young boy’s fight with cancer and of a mother’s determination and resilience, which see their family through to his recovery.

As her ten-year-old son sits at the kitchen table one evening, Lise Marzouk inspects his mouth and discovers an unusual growth, which doctors later confirm is cancerous. When he is hospitalized at the Curie Institute in Paris for lymphoma treatment, Lise finds herself torn between two worlds, one at his bedside, and the other at home with her two younger children, struggling to maintain a sense of stability in their lives. And so she writes–of their fears and doubts, but also of their moments of tenderness and joy–and through these memories, stories, and reveries, she arrives at a deeper understanding of herself as a woman, a mother, and a writer.

Brimming with a rebellious sense of hope, If offers an intimate look at how a mother’s love and support enabled her family to come out of a devastating experience stronger and more connected.



Excerpt from If

You’ve been told, it’s time your brother and sister knew. I can’t let them go on believing you just need your tonsils out. Nor can I let them keep hoping that we’ll all be going to Morocco in three days as planned. “He has a type of cancer, it’s called lymphoma.” For a moment I’m blindingly aware how surreal it is to have a conversation like this with such young children. I need to get down to concrete facts quickly and explain, but I don’t have time to add anything that might soften the news. Anna has already asked the only real question: “Is he going to die?” I’m not shocked by it, not surprised by it, not even stressed by it. There, I’ve tipped into another reality, a world where little girls can ask their mothers whether their brothers are going to die. Is Anna even a little girl still as we have this conversation? The three of us in this kitchen are suddenly projected outside time and relative ages. Of course, I try to find words that children will understand, but the truth I’m relaying to them has only one name. It will tolerate no lies or concealment. And so I give the apparently innocuous reply that the oncologist gave us yesterday: “it can be treated.” This exemplar of the implicit statement, which says everything without saying anything, feels appropriate. By using these words, am I hoping to deceive myself and deceive my children? Am I secretly hoping to leave it at that? But that wouldn’t allow for the pertinence of Anna’s questions, or their impertinence, a combination of emotional acuity and intellectual rigor. Perhaps, contrariwise, I’m so sure she’ll take this further that I’ve risked an open-ended reply in the subconscious hope of saying the truth. The ball is in my daughter’s court; she gets right onto it. “But what if it doesn’t work?” “It can be treated,” I say again. My intonation is slightly different this time, firmer, more emphatic. I know that Anna has understood the words in their complexity. I know she’s glimpsed the abyss of conditionality opening up beneath that “can be.” An abyss in which chance can always come and play its part.


“Powerful…gripping…takes your breath away.” —La République des livres

“A masterful work, a hymn to love.” —L’Infirmière magazine

“A beautiful story…Admirable in its precision and delicacy.” —Le Monde des livres