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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
Beyond the Happy Hurrahs: A Memoir of Hope after Cancer by Lila Zitouni chronicles the author’s life as she navigates through a cervical and ovarian cancer diagnosis and all that follows. Zitouni begins her story with the end of her relationship and then transitions back to the moments of diagnosis, the surgery, and the chemotherapy that follows. She discusses the physical transformations and overwhelming shift of emotions, and the reliance on both family and friends to help her through the most difficult phases. Several unexpected changes occur, including the gradual disappearance of friends and the devastating financial toll. Through it all, Zitouni navigates this new, uncharted life path as best she can with the love and support of her nuclear tribe and an angel that frequently lights the way.
As someone who held my wife's hand as she went through a similar experience, I am always drawn to books that go beyond the usual step-by-step of what occurred and dig deeper into the heart of the experience. Beyond the Happy Hurrahs by Lila Zitouni does exactly this. The profound honesty of what Zitouni went through and how she felt is often heart-wrenching, and the authenticity of her voice lends to how she connects to readers. That said, the most interesting parts to me are the ones that usually get relegated to a backburner or disregarded in similar books, such as the dating landscape. Zitouni describes the usual perils of online dating until she makes a match; the relationship feels organic as it grows, despite distance and differences in lifestyle. Three years later with Zitouni ready to retire, there's a make-or-break moment that I absolutely did not see coming. It is yet another reminder of how cancer has positively shaped Zitouni's outlook and her determination not to live a life on the second rung. This is indeed an inspiring read I recommend.