Book Club: The Cast Chapters 3-4

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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.

Read our participants’ reactions and follow along with us each week as we read through the book! Caution, spoilers below!

Week 2: Chapters 3 and 4

By Marie K:

Chapter 2 – Nolan

We are still so early in the book and there has been an allusion to a big secret that Becca, our main character, has, and one that her husband, Nolan, has as well. Honestly, my mind immediately went to one of them (most likely Nolan) having an affair. I think it’s because I found the writing style and maybe type of fiction book very similar to Maeve Binchy, Liane Moriarty, or Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. It was very difficult for me to read this book in order and not skip around to read each character’s story all at
once.

Anyways, did I get an answer in Chapter 2? This chapter is told from Nolan’s perspective and gives a little history about his and Becca’s relationship and how he related (or didn’t) to Becca’s cancer journey as a teen. We also hear about Nolan’s first time speaking with Becca’s closest friend, Jordana, and his initial take on the video (Becca Night Live) that her friends had made her while she was in isolation in the hospital. (Did this book give anyone flashbacks to your own time in isolation, whether for treatment or for this COVID-19 pandemic? Very relevant.)

Back to Nolan… We see a little of his character in this chapter and can see that he uses humor a lot to get him through a stressful or confusing moment but also, he’s not always very good at expressing himself (which definitely becomes a big issue later). The big reveal (at least to Nolan) is that Becca had Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a teenager. He seems to take the news in stride and even (very prematurely) blurts out that he’s ok with him and Becca adopting children if she can’t have her own. (And this is their
first date!!!) He and Becca watch the video from “The Cast” and twenty years later, in the present, Nolan and Becca are planning to attend a 20-year reunion with the cast and their significant others.

Interestingly, and I think this is why I was a little confused until much later in the book because I thought this chapter was present tense but maybe it’s Nolan’s recollection after the reunion, there is foreshadowing about Nolan recording a video for the Cast reunion and how he hopes it will help regain his wife’s trust. Bring on the drama?

Chapter 3 – Jordana

Next up is the preparation for the reunion from Jordana’s perspective. She has done A LOT of work planning and trying to make everything perfect. From the color-coded “to-do list”, and her own admission, we know that Jordana is an uber-organized person (possibly to the point of being OCD, I think). Jordana’s got everything in place, including some auntie time with Emma, Becca and Nolan’s daughter to create a collage of family photos, and then Becca drops a bomb: “Something came up. Change of plans. Can’t go tomorrow.” Jordana freaks out, showing us a little how much she needs to be in control. This also seems to trigger a recollection of her perspective of seeing Becca in the hospital. We see how important Becca is to her and we get a glimpse of how hard it is seeing a loved one so ill. Her reaction seems very real – she’s angry and sad and scared and accuses the universe “It’s not fair.” I’m sure all of us can relate a little to that. Being a caregiver is so difficult and even though Jordana was too young to really be called that, she and her friends played an important role in Becca’s journey and helping her deal with the trauma of her illness. Jordana tries connecting with Becca again but doesn’t get any answers, which makes her anxious.

Chapter 4 – Seth

I admit, at this point, I really needed to know what was going on so I read ahead and had to come back to read this chapter. So, Seth is the lone male in The Cast and we meet him for the first time as he’s parked illegally at the airport to pick up Lex (another member of the Cast) and her husband, Jack. He doesn’t recognize Lex but thinks to himself several times how attractive she is. She has arrived without Jack and, as she and Seth drive to the reunion, she makes several little comments that indicate she is not happy with Jack. She, however, appears completely in love with her kids and says she has never left them before. (This is a characteristic I absolutely can’t identify with and hearing parents say their life is their children makes me a little crazy. But, when I think about it, this means the author is really trying to create characters that feel like people you could actually meet.)

In terms of Seth’s character, we hear a little of his backstory through Lex’s mention of his parents and their obsession with their (and his) weight, his dropping out of college, his sense of humor in his childhood (there is a reference to crank calls he made – who didn’t?). Seth reflects on how he eventually ended up finding his path (“getting his shit together on his own timeframe”) and becoming a physical therapist. There is a brief mention of Seth being Nolan’s physical therapist and we see a text from him to set about referral for a surgeon, even though, as we learn from Lex’s great memory, Nolan’s broken collarbone was repaired months before. (The text message is more foreshadowing and seems to be a little out of place in the timeline. I think though that the book skips back in forth in time a little bit between characters, ie. each chapter isn’t a linear continuation of the last one). Lex seemed to be leading the discussion of Seth’s past a little as they drive as if she’s trying to figure out how to find her own path. She seems to be at ease away from home in Chicago and says a couple of times that she’s glad to be home. (Did I mention: more foreshadowing? It’s all building up to the reunion weekend!)

And, just in case you haven’t gotten there yet: good news! Becca’s “big secret” is going to be revealed in the next chapter!

By Alyssa G:

Chapter 3

This chapter is written from the perspective of Jordana. We get to see more of Becca and Jordana’s relationship. Jordana babysits Emma while Becca and Nolan go do something, but we don’t find out what it is they did. Whatever it was they were doing, I don’t think it was a fun date. Later in the chapter, Becca tells Jordana that she won’t make it to the reunion on Saturday. She’s pretty vague on the reason why. Jordana thinks she wouldn’t flake unless it was something serious. Did her cancer come back?

Possibly. That would be reason enough to miss the reunion. Jordana gets very upset that Becca won’t make it. After all, Jordana planned all of this for Becca. Since the book is set in New York I can visualize everything pretty well since I spent a lot of time there for treatment. There is mention that the hospital was on East 68th St. This jumped out at me because that’s where Sloan Kettering is and that’s where I had treatment so I could see myself in that place. I cannot wait to see how the next chapter goes!

Chapter 4

This chapter is set from Seth’s point of view. Seth is at the airport to pick up Lex. They will drive together to get to the party. Seth doesn’t recognize Lex since they haven’t seen each other in about 15 years. Lex now lives in Chicago with her husband. Her relationship with her husband seems strained. He didn’t come with her on this trip because he had a golf tournament. Seems pretty petty of him to miss the reunion. Seth and Lex catch up a little bit during their drive. They get so caught up that Seth gets pulled over for speeding. In this situation, Lex helps Seth get out of the ticket by talking to the cop about his hometown near Chicago. I definitely like in this part of the chapter how the Midwestern accent is written. After the cop lets them go, they continue talking and Lex says she is glad to be back home in New York. Later Seth gets a text from Nolan about a referral for surgery further leading to the assumption that Becca has cancer again. Seth tries to cover it up by saying Nolan needs surgery for a
broken collar bone, but will the issue arise at the reunion?

By Alexa J:

We reach chapter 3, which shares Becca’s best friend, Jordana’s, point of view. As best friends usually do, Jordana senses something is amiss. Nolan, Becca’s husband, requested Jordana babysit their daughter Emma for a reason not quite specified. Endearingly referred to as “Aunt Jojo”, Emma and Jordana look through photos to make a collage for Becca as a gift. While reflecting on the last several years of life through the lens of photographs, Jordana receives a call from Becca’s mom, Arlene, and after receiving a glowing review of the “girl’s day” they had together as told by Emma, Arlene informed Jordana that Becca and Nolan would not be returning to pick her up, and could she please pick Emma up. Jordana insisted that she needed to get a few things and that she would drop Emma off.

After Emma is reunited with her grandparents, we see part Jordana’s personality show. The well organized, color-coded to-do list, with many more tasks to accomplish, true to her “Type A” personality. A text comes in from Becca informing her that she wouldn’t be there on the first day the 4th of July weekend she had been tediously planning. I’ve heard it said anger is the bodyguard of hurt, and we see Jordana ride the waves of pain and confusion, disguised as anger and betrayal. Jordana ends the evening reflecting on the simpler days of childhood, with an overwhelming sense to pray like she did with her parents before bedtime. A prayer of “God bless our family and friends with health, happiness, and peace.” was mentioned, but I think the prayer of simple tears is just as valid.

In chapter 4, we visit with Becca’s friend Seth as he picks up a fellow “cast” member Lex at LaGuardia airport. It has been a long time since they reunited, and life has certainly changed. Marriage, families, careers, the typical grown-up stuff, Seth on the other hand is on a different path. Notorious for not settling down and dropping out of Princeton, (including some ribbing about it from Lex), Seth is now listening to Lex talk about her husband and children. Reunions and seeing where our long lost friends are on the path of life always makes me reflect on my own, and it’s no different here. Sharing memories, good and bad, and comparing lives, and a brief snafu with being pulled over, a text comes through from Nolan. It’s asking for a “surgical referral, ASAP.”, after some creative story remixing from Seth, he tells Lex, it’s just about Nolan’s old shoulder injury and not to think too much of it, while hiding his feelings of concern for the actual situation. Seth quickly changes the subject to dinner, and later at the restaurant states “I’m really glad you came home.” to Lex.

In our next blog post, look for the comments and discussion on chapters 5-6!

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!