ARC Book Review | FLAT by Catherine Guthrie

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Title:
FLAT: Reclaiming My Body from Breast Cancer
Author: Catherine Guthrie
Publish Date: September 25, 2018 by Skyhorse Publishing
# of Pages: 264
Buy it*: Amazon

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(From Goodreads) A feminist breast cancer memoir of medical trauma, love, and how she found the strength to listen to her body.As a young, queer woman, Catherine Guthrie had worked hard to feel at home in her body. However, after years writing about women’s health and breast cancer, Guthrie is thrust into the role of the patient after a devastating diagnosis at age thirty-eight. At least, she thinks, I know what I’m up against.

She was wrong. In one horrifying moment after another, everything that could go wrong does–the surgeon gives her a double mastectomy but misses the cancerous lump, one of the most effective drug treatments fails, and a doctor’s error may have unleashed millions of breast cancer cells into her body.

Flatis Guthrie’s story of how two bouts of breast cancer shook her faith in her body, her relationship, and medicine. Along the way, she challenges the view that breasts are essential to femininity and paramount to a woman’s happiness. Ultimately, she traces an intimate portrayal of how cancer reshapes her relationship with Mary, her partner, revealing–in the midst of crisis–a love story.

Filled with candor, vulnerability, and resilience, Guthrie upends the “pink ribbon” narrative and offers a unique perspective on womanhood, what it means to be “whole,” and the importance of women advocating for their desires. Flatis a story about how she found the strength to forge an unconventional path–one of listening to her body–that she’d been on all along.

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Rating (1-5, 5 is exceptional)

Quality of Writing
4_stars-01 STAR
Pace
4_stars-01 STAR
Enjoyability
5_stars-01 STAR

Insightfulness
5_stars-01 STAR

Overall Rating
5_stars-01 STAR

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FLAT by Catherine Guthrie is a stunningly raw cancer memoir. When Guthrie is diagnosed with cancer in her late-30s, she has a tough decision to make. Does she do reconstruction? Go flat? Use prosthetic breasts? In the end, she decides to go flat. This memoir shares her story–her cancer journey–and how cancer affected her relationships, self-image, and her faith in the medical system.

Cancer memoirs are always hard to read, and I’ve read several. On one hand, I always feel like a voyeur, viewing the grimness of someone else’s life through my healthy, rose-tinted glasses. On the other hand, cancer runs rampant in my family, so it’s only a matter of time before it hits closer to home than extended relatives. I’m in my early 30s, and I’ve had two mammograms and two ultrasounds to check out suspect lumps. While both lumps have been negative, I understand the fear and panic of the not knowing–the ultimate question of, is this lump benign, or is trying to kill me?

FLAT was a wonderful memoir–beautifully written and easily read in a single sitting. It’s raw, real, and hides nothing. Guthrie leaves herself bare as she discusses how cancer made her feel during those first days, the missed lump, and the physician’s critical mistake. Her cancer journey was not short, and she actively battled the disease for over two years. With those years behind her, she continues lives in wait, not knowing if cancer will make a reappearance or if it’s gone forever.

Throughout her journey, her partner, Mary, was by her side. Mary is the partner everyone could hope to have in a life or death situation. She’s calm, patient, and unfailing in her love and support as Guthrie made peace with her diagnosis. I fell in love with their love story as I read this memoir.

What I liked best about this memoir is that it showed the good and bad. Guthrie did not sugar coat anything, and shared the range of emotions she experienced during those early days. Depression, joy, heart-ache, hope–all of those emotions radiated from the pages as I read.

While this book wouldn’t appeal to everyone, if you enjoy memoirs, I highly recommend you check this book out!

Thank you to NetGalley for providing the Kindle version of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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