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Publisher's Summary

New York Times Best Seller

A searing, deeply moving memoir of illness and recovery that traces one young woman’s journey from diagnosis to remission to reentry into “normal” life - from the author of the Life, Interrupted column in The New York Times

One of the Best Books of the Year: The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, Bloomberg, The Rumpus, Library Journal, Booklist

“I was immersed for the whole ride and would follow Jaouad anywhere. ... Her writing restores the moon, lights the way as we learn to endure the unknown.” (Chanel Miller, The New York Times Book Review)

“Beautifully crafted ... affecting ... a transformative read ... Jaouad’s insights about the self, connectedness, uncertainty and time speak to all of us.” (The Washington Post)

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 23rd 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 countless rounds 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.

©2021 Suleika Jaouad (P)2021 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“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)

"Here is the key to Between Two Kingdoms - Jaouad’s disarming honesty. There is no self-pity in this telling and few of the expected pieties....Jaouad is writing about a process, a back-and-forth. In the tension between health and sickness, past and present, a new balance must be forged.” (Los Angeles Times)

"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)

“Jaouad’s book stands out not only because she has lived to parse the saga of her medical battle with the benefit of hindsight, but also because it encompasses the less familiar tale of what it’s like to survive and have to figure out how to live again.” (NPR)

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What listeners say about Between Two Kingdoms

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  • Overall
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Just ok--maybe not the audience for this...

...particular "medical memoir." I've read A lot of them in the past few years as I grapple with my own stuff. I had no idea that Jaouad had written a younger adults with cancer column for the NYT. I just thought the memoir sounded interesting; and the last 20 percent was really good. The rest...just ok. Her writing is adequate--pretty straight forward, no lyrical beautiful language to lean on so it really is about the story.

I think I didn't relate because she seemed so immature and entitled--her boyfriend (who's only been her boyfriend for a few months when she gets diagnosed) pretty much has no life at all because all he does is work and then physically and mentally takes care of her. But that's not enough for her. She wants more, more, more. The way she writes it, he couldn't have possibly done anything more (other than to quit his job and take care of her 24/7) so she's not unaware, but she won't allow him to have anything but her. But she can have her burgeoning writing career (which he helps her with) and SPOILER ALERT when they break up (when she's finally semi-functional), within a month, it's onto the next one for her (a childhood friend she eventually marries).

I'm not sure if she still lacks insight or figured that her brief acknowledgements and epiphanies were enough. But it wasn't for me as a reader, but it might be enough for others.

Still, I was never bored, and these days that counts for a lot.

And on the level of "amazing someone can live through that" and come out the other side still wanting to live, get married, have the career she wants even though she'll probably never be entirely well... Well, like I could never do what Will did, I couldn't have done what she did either. Though thinking about it now, that was an unexplored part of the memoir. There's very little about her ever wanting to give up, or it being ok to give up. Again, maybe it was her age. A 22-yr-old is more likely to want to survive even when there's only a 35% chance of making it to the 5 year cancer-free mark than say, someone my age who has lived a full life and and might not consider the pay off worth 3 years of unimaginable suffering and never being totally well again because of the damage that not only the cancer but the treatment did to her body.

This was one of the most graphic depictions of cancer that I've read. She wins the prize for her laconic description of vomiting up the lining of her esophagus. She did her job as a writer on that bit because I don't think I will ever get that out of my head!


14 people found this helpful

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So incredibly inspiring...

Suleika made art with her words as she so eloquently described her interpretations of her reality. I immensely enjoyed her writing and more than anything appreciate her courageous journey. This is a must read for anyone who’s ever spent any length of time in the kingdom of the sick. And a must read for those who have not yet had the journey there to truly understand how blessed one is to reside in the kingdom of the well.

3 people found this helpful

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My favorite so far

I wasn’t expecting much from this book when I first started. But what I got was something I didn’t know I needed. While exploring my own road trip and first solo camping adventure, I listened to this book while hiking, beach bumming and relaxing by the fire. I just turned 5 years sober as a young adult, feeling directionless and overwhelmed. This book has moved me in more ways than one and provided a sense of communal understanding for hope of the future. Thank you Suleika

2 people found this helpful

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Inspired

What a moving story of her journey. I was enriched by her story. Thank you

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Life changing

SuSu’s journey is tragic, but the way she wanders through each phase of her illness and treatment into a state of health is profound. The lessons she learned by herself and from those who shared in the journey can be applied to many life challenges. Thank you for sharing.

1 person found this helpful

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Superb

I was almost 22 when my boyfriend died of leukemia. In fact today is the day he died 51 years ago. The memories of his hospital stays, bone marrows, waiting for test results can be pulled up easily. I now have been married 47 years and we have 5 adult sons, 3 daughters in love and 6 grandchildren. I would never want anyone to suffer or to die, but I would do it again for the depth of compassion and gratitude for life I gained. Thank you. All blessings and care, jp
I’m using a friends audible account so posting my name is not possible.

1 person found this helpful

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Hauntingly familiar and perfectly written

Her description and her willingness to share such vulnerable experiences was such a gift. As a cancer patient, I found her words hauntingly familiar and so incredibly healing to see that I am not alone. I hung on every word.

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a most amazing story

this book was amazing. everyone should read it. every doctor should read it. thank you for the story your life experience will help me guide my own life.

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Couldn’t put it down!

This will be the memoir of the year - you heard it here first!

Although her experience sadly may not be completely unique, the way she has captured on paper each moment of her story to help us understand what it’s like to have your life spun 180, relentlessly fight to survive while trying to maintain relationships and be a normal person in your formative early 20’s, to then try and merge back into society after being out of it for years - is unrivaled. She never lost my attention. Her prose is hypnotic. If only my body didn’t require sleep I would have finished it in one sitting!

Lastly, how delightful it is to hear an author narrate their own book at a level reserved for the pros. If you were worried when you saw, “Narrated by the author,” have no fear. Her voice only adds more power to the words.

5/5 a must read.

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Beautifully written

I could not book this book down. The story is painfully sad, yet compelling by virtue of how deeply real it is. By the end of the book, I was quite desperate to wrap my arms around Suleika, for all of her courage in living through,, and then writing about, her excruciatingly harsh battles. Suleika,s writing is lyrical, honest and engrossing Between Two Kingdoms will remain with me for a long time

1 person found this helpful