A searing, deeply moving memoir of illness and recovery that traces one young woman’s journey from diagnosis to remission and, ultimately, a road trip of healing and self-discovery.
“A work of breathtaking creativity.”—Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love “Elegant and heartbreaking.”—Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of The Emperor of All Maladies “Mended parts I thought were forever disintegrated.”—Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy “A propulsive, soulful story of mourning and gratitude.”—Tara Westover, author of Educated
In the summer after graduating from college, Suleika Jaouad was preparing, as they say in commencement speeches, to enter “the real world.” She had fallen in love and moved to Paris to pursue her dream of becoming a war correspondent. The real world she found, however, would take her into a very different kind of conflict zone.
It started with an itch—first on her feet, then up her legs, like a thousand invisible mosquito bites. Next came the exhaustion, and the six-hour naps that only deepened her fatigue. Then a trip to the doctor and, a few weeks shy of her twenty-third birthday, a diagnosis: leukemia, with a 35 percent chance of survival. Just like that, the life she had imagined for herself had gone up in flames. By the time Jaouad flew home to New York, she had lost her job, her apartment, and her independence. She would spend much of the next four years in a hospital bed, fighting for her life and chronicling the saga in a column for The New York Times.
When Jaouad finally walked out of the cancer ward—after three and a half years of chemo, a clinical trial, and a bone marrow transplant—she was, according to the doctors, cured. But as she would soon learn, a cure is not where the work of healing ends; it’s where it begins. She had spent the past 1,500 days in desperate pursuit of one goal—to survive. And now that she’d done so, she realized that she had no idea how to live.
How would she reenter the world and live again? How could she reclaim what had been lost? Jaouad embarked—with her new best friend, Oscar, a scruffy terrier mutt—on a 100-day, 15,000-mile road trip across the country. She set out to meet some of the strangers who had written to her during her years in the hospital: a teenage girl in Florida also recovering from cancer; a teacher in California grieving the death of her son; a death-row inmate in Texas who’d spent his own years confined to a room. What she learned on this trip is that the divide between sick and well is porous, that the vast majority of us will travel back and forth between these realms throughout our lives. Between Two Kingdoms is a profound chronicle of survivorship and a fierce, tender, and inspiring exploration of what it means to begin again.
About the Author
Suleika Jaouad is an Emmy Award–winning writer, speaker, cancer survivor, and activist. She served on Barack Obama’s President’s Cancer Panel, and her advocacy work, reporting, and speaking has been featured at the United Nations, on Capitol Hill, and on the TED Talk main stage. When she’s not on the road with her 1972 Volkswagen camper van and her rescue dog Oscar, she lives in Brooklyn.
“A beautiful, elegant, and heartbreaking book that provides a glimpse into the kingdom of illness . . . Suleika Jaouad avoids sentimentality but manages to convey the depth of the emotional turmoil that illness can bring into our lives.”—Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of The Emperor of All Maladies
“In a book bubbling with ambition and impeccable skill, it is what Suleika Jaouad does with courage and secondary characters that is simply once in a generation. Between Two Kingdoms mended parts I thought were forever disintegrated.”—Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy
"I want to describe Suleika Jaouad with words like ‘courageous,’ ‘resilient,’ ‘vulnerable,’ and ‘inspiring’—but I understand that, for cancer survivors, these words can feel like empty clichés. The problem is, these words are true. Suleika Jaouad is courageous, resilient, vulnerable, and inspiring. And her memoir about her cancer journey is a work of breathtaking creativity and heart-stopping humanity. Jaouad’s story goes where you never expect it to go—not only into the depths of her own pain and lost years, but into the spirits of countless strangers (sick and well) she meets along the highway of own her life and illuminates with rare generosity and grace. This is a deeply moving and passionate work of art, quite unlike anything I’ve ever read. I will remember these stories for years to come, because Suleika Jaouad has imprinted them on my heart.”—Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love
“When the life we had is snatched away, how do we find the conviction to live another? Between Two Kingdoms will resonate with anyone who is living a different life than they planned to live. This is a propulsive, soulful story of mourning and gratitude—and an intimate portrait of one woman’s sojourn in the wilderness between life and death.”—Tara Westover, author of Educated “This is a stunning memoir, well-crafted and hard to put down.”—Publishers Weekly