Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars -- John Green

As regular visitors here know, I really like the novels of John Green (see here, here, and here). However, I wasn't sure I'd read The Fault in Our Stars. Why? Well, because it's about kids with cancer. I wasn't sure I was ready for a humorous novel on that topic. Why? Again, as regular visitors know, my wife, Judy, has been dealing with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma for almost five years now, so I know more about at least one form of cancer than I want to know. The good news is that a couple of weeks ago, after Judy completed her fifth (or is it sixth?) clinical trial, we were told that she's in remission. Nobody knows how long this will last, but it was a great way to start the year. After getting that good news, I figured maybe I was ready to read The Fault in Our Stars, after all.

I'm glad I did. It's funny, it's life-affirming, and it's a pleasure to read, even if the subject matter might seem to indicate otherwise. The main characters are Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus (Gus) Waters. Hazel is 16. She has thyroid cancer and has to haul an oxygen bottle along wherever she goes. She still alive thanks only to a miracle drug that's not going to work forever. Gus has osteosarcoma and has had part of one leg amputated. The two of them meet in a cancer support group and fall in love. Talk about your doomed romances!

That aside, I hope there really are kids like this in the world, kids who are clear-eyed realists, kids who can quote Wallace Stevens or William Carlos Williams at the drop of a hat, kids who are familiar with Kierkegaard, kids who see the metaphorical significance in the ordinary events of daily life. I'm not saying these kids don't exist, mind you. I'm just saying I seldom encounter them. I sure like reading about them, though.

Anyway, Hazel and Gus are huge fans of a book written by a reclusive author who lives in Amsterdam. The book has what we literary scholars call an "open ending." They want to know the rest of the story, so they go to Amsterdam (sort of a "Make a Wish" deal) to meet the author, who [HUGE SPOILER] turns out to be a total asshole (unlike any actual authors you might have met) [END OF HUGE SPOILER].

There's a lot more, but that's enough plot summary. Sad and terrible things happen in this book, but it's not sad or terrible. Sure, it might make even a manly man such as myself a little verklempt from time to time, but it's about living, not dying, and I recommend it highly.

P. S. I posted here about Green's signing all 150,000 copies of the first printing of this book, so I have a signed copy. Well, there's something that might be a signature. I can make out the "J."


Paul Bishop said...

Like you, I'm a huge fan of Green's work, so I'm putting this at the top of my list.

Gerard Saylor said...

we were told that she's in remission.

Good. Glad to hear the update.

Anonymous said...

The book sounds good and the update is wonderful. Thanks for sharing both.

Deb said...

I'm so glad to hear your wife is in remission.

John Green said...

Bill, I always look forward to your reviews (whether they're about my books or otherwise), and thanks so much for reading this one. I'm glad to hear that your wife is in remission, and wish you both the best.

Unknown said...

Thanks, John, and thanks for writing the book. I'm a huge fan and already looking forward to the next one.

France said...

Absolutely THE BEST BOOK I have ever read. Once you start, you can't put it it down. He is my favorite author, and is great at what he does. It really makes you feel like you're right there, watching it all happen. Great book, great author. Now, GO READ IT?