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IF by Lise Marzouk


A Mother's Memoir

by Lise Marzouk ; translated by Adriana Hunter

Pub Date: Oct. 29th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-59051-097-1
Publisher: Other Press

A mother’s perspective on her son’s harrowing bout with lymphoma.

As French author Marzouk relates in her English-language debut, what started out as a sore throat escalated into something far more dangerous for 10-year-old Solal. When his tonsil had black streaks on it, his parents knew they needed professional help. Of course, they were blindsided by the diagnosis of cancer. The author and her husband were suddenly thrust into a different world as Solal moved into the Curie Institute in Paris for treatments. Because they had two other children who needed them, they also had to maintain some semblance of normalcy throughout the long months ahead. Marzouk delivers this tender memoir via two points of view: first person, which gives readers her immediate, often visceral reactions to such things as the doctor’s first analysis of Solal’s prognosis and Solal’s hair beginning to fall out due to chemotherapy; and third person, which gives a wider perspective of events and includes Solal’s reactions. The author skillfully deploys telling details, and her descriptions of what Solal endured and how she felt puts readers into the same space as the family, creating a narrative that is sometimes overwhelmingly intense. The author’s determination and sheer willpower to endure this ordeal shine through on nearly every page. For those who have been touched by cancer, the book will bring back memories of treatments and sickness, of fears and sadness, and of joy and hope. “You’re here,” she writes in conclusion. “I’m not making it up. You really are here. Freed from the Institute and its machines with their gloomy notes. And so I sing in order to forget, to forget the risks you still run, forget my fear, forget uncertainty. Yes, Solal, we must sing, we must keep singing obstinately. But even so, what if? What if? In spite of everything, there’s always an if.”

A powerful, emotionally resonant memoir of a young boy’s bout with cancer as experienced by his devoted mother.