23 February 2011

Getting "Intensely Personal"

There are a few copies of my book, Between Expectations, floating around the house of late. Now, as tempted as I am to give them away to family, friends, strangers on the street, I am told that is generally not the best way to get people to actually buy copies of the book all by themselves. Nevertheless, my mother did get a hold of a copy and she did pass it on to one of her oldest and dearest friends.

As I was working on updating this site yesterday, my mother walked into the family room waving her phone in front of her.

"You have a fan," she whispered.

"What?" I asked.

"Just take this," she insisted, just about putting the phone up to my ear for me.

"I just finished reading your book," my mother's friend had called to say. "I just need to tell you, I was blown away."

Obviously, it is always fabulous to receive praise. The fact that this was the first person outside my family who has read the book and told me they liked it means a great deal. The people whose quotes decorate the back of the jacket cover read it, they wrote nice things to my publisher, but they never called me up on the phone. I won't hold that against them. I'm guessing Samuel Shem has more important things to do.

So needless to say, this was a moment when it began to feel a little more real to me. The book will be out in just about a week. Bookstores are going to stock it. Even small bookstores, like the one my husband and I took Emmaline to last night to play. I know this because I made Daryl go to the desk and ask if it was in stock. I did this even knowing that talking to strangers is something he hates.

"It's not out yet," he reminded me.

"I know that," I told him. "You know that. But they don't know that you know that. Just go ask. Please, please, please."

So he did. It was not yet in stock - surprise, surprise - but it would be on March 1.

The other thing that has made this feel real to me is the copy of the book I put into a padded envelope and addressed to the parents of one of my patients who died when I was in training. There are parts of the book that are about him. His parents will read it, I hope. They will feel things - good, bad, everything in between - I don't know what things. But what if it hurts them to read?

And even though I wrote the book with as much tenderness and awe as I knew how to, I find myself worrying, what if it's not enough?

It might not be. In fact, it probably isn't. Because how could I - who knew their son for a month, who knew all of these children that I wrote about for only a brief moment in time - know enough to write down anything of meaning about the experiences they went through? I can't.

But still, I had to try.

And even though there is a big part of me that is scared of what people will think when they finally do read it, afraid people will know at last how selfish and petty and stupid I often am, I realize that I have to be brave. Not really brave. Not "I'm going to stick a needle in your arm and maybe one in your back and make you stay in the hospital" brave. I only need to be a little bit brave and then the book will be out and people can read about all of the little children who are so much braver than I will ever be. So, yes, that's something I can do. Wish me luck.

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