Penelope Ayers — You Should Read It

I’ve recently finished a book I want to recommend.  I guess you could say I’m an evangelist about things that excite me. While I’m on the subject, you should go to my favorite sushi place (Ipoh) and should go see the Manzari brothers and Maurice Hines in Sophisticated Ladies if you happen to live in DC.  But I digress.

Back to my book review: It’s called Penelope Ayers, and it’s a touching memoir of a family coming together around a too-young woman diagnosed with liver cancer.  It’s a tale of New Orleans society, pre-Katrina.  It’s a tale of a daughter-in-law moving from the outskirts of a family to the core as she serves as caretaker (or caregiver).  It’s the tale of a young marriage maturing.  It’s a powerful tale of illness, hope, redemption and courage as a family and group of friends come together in tragedy and create beauty.

It’s even a worthy guide for anyone haltingly navigating the ugly waters of withering bodies, hospital corridors, bedsores; you will feel that you had a companion for the journey, a grace-filled companion, in author Amy Julia Becker.  I’m getting it as a gift for people going through illnesses with those they love (i.e. almost everyone, sadly).

This story is beautiful on many levels.  I read it late into the night and picked it back up pre-coffee the next morning as I was nearing the home stretch of it.  The ultimate compliment from me.  I don’t actually usually do anything pre-coffee.

You can order the book or learn more about it through the author’s site:  And I was pleased to see that John Wilson of Books & Culture and Andy Crouch of had both discovered this gem.  I have good taste, apparently.

~ by Cary on May 1, 2010.

3 Responses to “Penelope Ayers — You Should Read It”

  1. I did that this week with Frederick Buechner’s Godrick. Ordinarily nothing comes between me and my morning coffee, either!

  2. […] in the fall.  I’ve written about Amy Julia’s work before, touting her excellent book, Penelope Ayers.  She wrote recently on her beliefnet blog about the candor with which she and husband Peter […]

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