3 out of 4 stars
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Brain Candy by Deirdre Timmons is a witty memoir about a very serious topic - brain cancer. Deirdre is a forty-seven-year-old filmmaker who has her hands full. Her mother has Alzheimer’s disease, her teenage daughter keeps her busy, and her husband wants to open a barbecue joint. Over the past year, Deirdre has been experiencing a range of worrisome symptoms, including dizziness and unexplained bruising. After undergoing a series of tests, she is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor known as a medulloblastoma; this type of malignant tumor is rare in adults and usually affects babies. Faced with a grim prognosis, Deirdre seeks two additional medical opinions and then plows ahead with treatment.
I absolutely loved this book. The author’s conversational writing style propels the story forward in an entertaining way. I know it sounds strange to describe a story about cancer and Alzheimer’s disease as entertaining. However, humor can be its own form of medicine when you are coping with trying circumstances. In particular, Deirdre’s mother Kathy is a hoot. She manages to maintain her sassy personality and ability to deliver great one-liners, even though Alzheimer’s disease has taken its toll on her.
The main characters are fleshed out well. However, I didn’t always get a good sense of the supporting characters. There is a parade of neighbors, friends, and Deirdre’s brothers who flit in and out of the storyline. Still, it is realistic that there is a large cast of characters, given Deirdre’s situation. For example, several neighbors and friends step up to provide meals, transportation, and general support. It is also understandable that there would be numerous visits with different doctors and technicians.
The story has an intimate feel, even during the medical scenes. There is a lot of technical information about her medical tests, diagnosis, treatment, and side effects. Still, the story never gets bogged down by the details. The pace is fairly brisk, especially in the first half of the book. The author does a good job of conveying a race against time in battling cancer.
I felt like I was watching a movie while reading this book. I could clearly picture Deirdre undergoing chemo and radiation treatments, as well as enduring the side effects. The scenes with Deirdre and her mother are also vividly described. The witty banter between the two women is one of the highlights of the story. It feels effortless and dances off the page.
I noticed approximately fifteen errors throughout the story. The mistakes include punctuation in the wrong place, missing words, typos, spelling errors, incorrect plural/singular verbs, missing commas, and incorrect words. The errors mar an otherwise wonderful writing style.
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. The injection of humor provides a nice balance to the serious themes of brain cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, the editing issues prevent me from awarding the highest rating to this absorbing story. Fans of memoirs will surely enjoy this book. I would also recommend it to readers who have dealt with similar experiences. It is an unflinchingly honest and inspirational story that I won’t soon forget.
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