Today we have a special guest post by Elizabeth Lesser, author of Marrow: Love, Loss, and What Matters Most.
About the Book:
The author of the New York Times bestseller Broken Open returns with a visceral and profound memoir of two sisters who, in the face of a bone marrow transplant—one the donor and one the recipient—begin a quest for acceptance, authenticity, and most of all, love.
A mesmerizing and courageous memoir: the story of two sisters uncovering the depth of their love through the life-and-death experience of a bone marrow transplant. Throughout her life, Elizabeth Lesser has sought understanding about what it means to be true to oneself and, at the same time, truly connected to the ones we love. But when her sister Maggie needs a bone marrow transplant to save her life, and Lesser learns that she is the perfect match, she faces a far more immediate and complex question about what it really means to love—honestly, generously, and authentically.
Hoping to give Maggie the best chance possible for a successful transplant, the sisters dig deep into the marrow of their relationship to clear a path to unconditional acceptance. They leave the bone marrow transplant up to the doctors, but take on what Lesser calls a "soul marrow transplant," examining their family history, having difficult conversations, examining old assumptions, and offering forgiveness until all that is left is love for each other’s true selves. Their process—before, during, and after the transplant—encourages them to take risks of authenticity in other aspects their lives.
But life does not follow the storylines we plan for it. Maggie’s body is ultimately too weak to fight the relentless illness. As she and Lesser prepare for the inevitable, they grow ever closer as their shared blood cells become a symbol of the enduring bond they share. Told with suspense and humor, Marrow is joyous and heartbreaking, incandescent and profound. The story reveals how even our most difficult experiences can offer unexpected spiritual growth. Reflecting on the multifaceted nature of love—love of other, love of self, love of the world—Marrow is an unflinching and beautiful memoir about getting to the very center of ourselves.
From the Author:
Dear Book Club Girls,
After you’ve written more than one book, people often ask, “Which one of your books do you think I’d like best?” I always answer, “It depends on what you’re going through in your life." Are you looking to develop a spiritual practice or to heal your heart or strengthen your body? My first book—The Seeker’s Guide—is good for that. But maybe you are in some kind of big transition, a change, a loss, a confusing middle-of-the-dark woods period…My memoir Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help You Grow is about my own dark woods experience through divorce, but it also includes stories from people known and unknown going through their own “Phoenix Process,” as I call it—rising from the ashes of a difficult time, wiser and stronger.
My most recent book is called Marrow: Love, Loss & What Matters Most, and it just came out in paperback.
Marrow is about being my sister’s bone marrow donor and the experience we shared cleaning up our relationship before having my bone marrow harvested and then transplanted into her body. We wanted to go into the procedures with nothing but love between us, but first we had a lot of unspoken sibling stuff to wade through, to understand, to forgive. We wanted to do this now because it was a life and death situation: if my cells attacked my sister, or if her body rejected my cells, she wouldn’t make it. The book charts our sometimes painful, sometimes funny, always meaningful process of healing (what we came to call our "soul marrow transplant"), and the year she lived after the transplant, and the courageous choice she made at the end.
So the other day, when someone asked me, “Which one of your books do you think I should start with?” I responded with my usual: “It depends...What’s up for you these days?” And the person said, “I’m going back home for Thanksgiving, and there are several family members who have very different opinions about what’s going on in our country. I’m afraid we’re going to get into a big fight.” So I suggested she read Marrow. You may wonder why a memoir about cancer and sisters and a bone marrow transplant would be applicable for someone going home for the holidays. But Marrow is also about how all of us can let go of opinions and assumptions about each other—whomever the “other” is—show up with an open heart, listen, and have authentic, courageous, and real conversations with the people in our life.
If ever there was a time for us to learn how to confront our differences in a loving, hopeful, and mindful manner, it’s now. As I write in Marrow, “People have said I was brave to undergo the bone marrow extraction. But I don’t really think so—you’d have to be a miserable, crappy person to refuse the opportunity to save your sibling. But getting emotionally naked with my sister—this felt risky. To dig deep into never-expressed grievances, secret shame, behind-the-back stories, blame, and judgment wasn’t something we had done before. But my sister’s life hung in the balance…What I learned from both transplants—the bone marrow transplant and the soul marrow transplant—is that the marrow of the bones and the marrow of your very own self are quite similar. Deep in the center of the bones are stem cells that can keep another person alive, perhaps not forever, but for a time and, in the case of my sister, for what she called the best year of her life. Deep in the center of the self are the soul cells of who you really are. Dig for them, believe in them, and offer them to another person, and you can heal each other’s hearts and keep love alive forever. Here’s one more thing I learned. You don’t have to wait for a life-and-death situation to offer the marrow of yourself to another person. We can all do it, we can do it now, and there’s a chance that the life of our human family does indeed depend on it.”
So, if you’re dreading confronting all those “others” across the Thanksgiving table or during the ho-ho-ho festivities, you may want to pick up Marrow. It’s a good read, and you’ll also come away inspired to go a little deeper with your family members—past the politics and into the soul.
Marrow: Love, Loss & What Matters Most is available now in paperback. Order your copy here today!