Welcome to the comments and discussion of the Young Adult Cancer Book Club! We are reading The Cast by Amy Blumenfeld! Catch up on Chapters 1-2, Chapters 3-4, Chapters 5-6, Chapters 7-8, and Chapters 9-10! Read participant reactions and follow along with us each week as we read through the book. Caution, spoilers below!
Week 6: Chapters 11 and 12
By KM H.:
Chapter 11: Holly
I think Holly is one of the most even-keeled characters in this bunch. In this chapter, Holly’s husband, Adam, discovers that Holly made a baby registry when the store calls to recover their price gun that Holly accidentally took with her. This is a potential tension point because Holly and Adam’s practice as Orthodox Jews includes a taboo against gift-giving to unborn children. Adam and Holly don’t discuss it right away, so we don’t get to know how they worked it out.
What we do see is Becca coming in and helping Holly return the price gun, and act that leads to all sorts of internal debate for Holly, because it’s Shabbos and she is deeply observant. In the end, she decides to go with Becca to the store and return the item, even though it’s Shabbos and she shouldn’t be riding in a car. She goes because she wants to help Becca, who seems to need to get out of the house right then.
I really enjoyed this chapter and being in Holly’s head. I especially liked how Holly questions and wonders about her religious practice and how she wants to raise her unborn child. She’s walking a delicate line, wanting to remain Orthodox but debating what’s best for her and her family now. I think what I liked most about this whole internal debate or the acknowledgment that people change, and that what works well for someone in one part of their life might not work later—and that’s okay. I also really, really appreciated that she bent her religious custom to help a friend in need. Overall, I found Holly and Adam to be two of the most heartwarming characters throughout this novel. 🙂
Chapter 12: Nolan
At this point, I am firmly in the “Nolan is a highly divorce-able douche nozzle” camp. The chapter opens with his mom, the only reasonable person in his family of origin, prodding him out of bed to go make-up with Becca. Then we get treated to Nolan’s mental pity party (eg “They’re probably calling to disown me.” And “Why should I apologize for speaking my mind.”) as he deals with (deserved) issues with his law firm and (undeserved) affection from his daughter. Eventually, he decides to head to the reunion to be with Becca and try to keep his family together—he knows divorce is on the table—but at this point, he’s still convinced that he’s right about Becca’s need for boobs.
His reception at the reunion is a bit cold. From there, he gets some alone time with Becca and instead of working things out, they talk about Emma’s birth. Then Nolan and Seth argue, and Nolan spills his guts about his work troubles to Jordana at the end of the chapter.
I kept waiting to hear Nolan really argue his case about the reconstruction—whether that happens through inner monologue or in conversation with someone else. Unfortunately, Nolan is a master at avoidance and self-pity, and even at the end of the chapter, he’s mentally pleading with Becca to admit she overreacted so they can enjoy the weekend. Ugh.
Conclusion: Nolan is still a douchebag.
By Jessica K.:
Chapter 11: Holly
In chapter 11, we get a glimpse inside Holly’s daily rituals as an observant Jewish woman. We also see how her daily routine is upended by her response to Becca’s cancer diagnosis. She forgets to turn off her phone for Shabbat, forgoes the rules and drives with Bec in a car, etc. She also commits to a secret pact made with her other friends to “distract [Bec and] lift her spirits].”
This chapter reminded me of how my own cancer diagnosis affected the lives of everyone around me. On a macro level, everyone had to grapple with the fact that my life was in jeopardy. On a micro level, they did the same thing as Bec’s friends and made concerted efforts to lift my spirits. I appreciated their efforts but also felt weird about it. I was processing my own breast cancer diagnosis but also dealing with everyone else’s emotional responses. I didn’t want anyone else to worry, so I always put on a brave face. I really like how this book is so realistic. It is obvious from reading that the author has also been through what we’ve all been through.
Chapter 12: Nolan
This chapter is all about how Becca’s husband, Nolan, processes the news of her breast cancer and how her childhood BFFs come to her defense when he inappropriately pressures her into having reconstructive surgery after her bilateral mastectomy. This chapter really highlights the spectrum of responses you get from friends and family when they find out about your cancer. Generally, I try to be understanding toward others, but it is hard for me to sympathize with Nolan here. As a breast cancer survivor and a divorce attorney, I know far too many stories about the women who received life-threatening diagnoses and the men who could not handle their wife’s cancer.
Here, Nolan is keeping secrets about his job, running away to his mom’s house, and showing up late to the party celebrating his wife’s remission. To me (admittedly not an objective observer), his response is not appropriate. But, neither is it unexpected. Cancer sucks and it takes a toll on everyone around you in different ways.
By Sarah H:
Chapter 11 was written from the view of Holly. This chapter talks about being authentic and being yourself. The story is around a scanner gun that Holly accidentally stole and the need to return it even though it was a Saturday and as an Orthodox Jewish person she should not be going out. Holly decides as a good friend she needs to help distract Becca and broke the rules for the first time in over 20 years. This chapter reminded me of my friend Nancy and how she will often pick me up to go shopping at Walmart as a distraction. Sometimes she will drop everything to step up and distract me as Holly did with her religious beliefs.
Chapter 12 was written from the viewpoint of Nolan and is his perspective following the previous fight with Becca. The chapter shows the effect that a diagnosis and big decisions have on everyone in the family and friendships. It also updated us that he might be about to lose his job and possibly be sued. It is a chapter of stress and turmoil from the characters’ perspective. While trying to protect others he is distancing himself. While reading this chapter I could physically feel the stress that was happening. It gave me a chance to step back and think of some of the situations people I love have been through with my diagnosis. How people have kept important life things from me out of love and not wanting to “burden” me with more. Also, it made me think of some of the fights I have had and question what else was going on during those times.
In our next blog post, look for the comments and discussion on chapters 13-14!
We will talk about a few chapters each Monday until the book is done. If Monday happens to be a holiday, then the post will publish on Tuesday. Once we finish the book, we’ll use one more Monday to talk about general feelings from the book and anything else you’d like to discuss. We’ll also have a video chat book club discussion at the end! Join in, in the comments every week! Also, there will probably be spoilers so read along with us! Excited about the young adult cancer book club? Have any suggestions for future reads? Let us know!