Thank you to Georgia Clark the lovely people at Atria Books for my copy of The Bucket List by Georgia Clark. All thoughts and images are my own.
Title: The Bucket List
Author: Georgia Clark
Genre: 20-something adventures (& misadventures) in NYC.
Pub date: August 7, 2018
Read if you like: The Regulars, The Bold Type.
We’re going with a slightly different (and way more personal) style for this review. If you’ve been following along for a while, you’ll know that I strongly believe in the right books finding me at the right times. It’s my version of fate. Sometimes, that choice is conscious – I’m pretty good about knowing what kind of read I’m in the mood for. Other times, it comes unexpectedly, like the book gods know a secret they didn’t let me in on. This is one of those stories.
I’m hesitant to admit it, but I am in a book slump. My current read is just not hooking me. I make the choice to put it aside (for now, at least) and look around my room for some inspiration. I want something fun but meaningful. Everything on my immediate TBR is not quite right. Then, as if by some divine intervention, it hits me. It’s been in front of my face this whole time. The Bucket List by Georgia Clark is on the bottom of one of the many stacks of books piled around my room. Clark’s last novel, The Regulars, was one of the highlights of my Summer 2017 reads. I love her voice – snarky, witty, and timely. Georgia invited us to a rooftop party a few weeks ago to celebrate the upcoming launch of The Bucket List, but it has slipped my mind until this morning. I toss it in my bag and hustle out the door.
I was right, this book is everything I need. The Bucket List is the story of Lacey Whitman, a twenty-five year old New Yorker living a life not unlike mine – full of colorful friends, silly mistakes, and late nights. It’s like my newest TV obsession, The Bold Type, in book form. At the start of the story, Lacey is informed that she has inherited the breast cancer gene. With this revelation, she has two choices: monitor and wait for something more definite to appear, or opt for a preventative double mastectomy. As she considers which path she will take, she embarks on a “boob bucket list” that she creates with her friends. If she’s going to get rid of them, she’s going to show them a good time first.
I’m completely sucked in. Lacey is fascinating but flawed. Her friends are equally entrancing. The men around her are desirable and idiots, all at once. There is one chapter in which she tackles one entry on the bucket list, role play, that had me genuinely laughing out loud. Ask my roommate, Kyle, he can corroborate that I could not stop snorting with laughter during reading time in our living room, no matter how many times he glared at me.
I’m sitting at my desk at work, itching to get back to The Bucket List, when my phone rings. I look down at the caller ID – it’s my gynecologist’s office. And I know what this means. I take a deep breath and I answer.
I am right – my pap smear has come back with abnormal results. This is not my first rodeo; in fact, it’s my third. In 2015, I had my first abnormal pap smear. An abnormal pap smear is an indicator of abnormal cells on your cervix. This could be an abnormality related to cervical cancer, or something else Your doctor may follow with another pap after some time has passed or a colposcopy and a biopsy, which allows the doctor to get a closer look at the abnormal cells. I was only home from college for winter break, so my doctor and I opted to go ahead and do a colposcopy while I was still in NYC.
I was lucky – all of my test results came back completely negative for dysplasia (a precancerous state). I was asked to come back in a year for another pap, which was negative. This year, I was not so lucky. I’ve had two abnormal paps within 3 months. That’s what my doctor was calling to communicate. She advises me to come in for another colposcopy. I schedule my appointment.
Ok, back to the book. I’m not sure I can pick it back up after that phone call. I’m easily affected by the media around me and the coincidence of this being my current read is not lost on me. Lacey and I are not in the same situation, but they’re not completely dissimilar. Instead of allowing myself to be haunted, I remind myself of how much I was enjoying the story before I got this news and I dive back in.
I completely love every second of it. Somehow, it is exactly what I need. It is fun and rollicking and also serious and scary all at once. It doesn’t shy away from the nitty gritty of ruined friendships, disappointed employers, and surgical drains. Cancer is scary. Surgery is scary. All of the things Lacey is facing are scary. But life is also scary. And, as Lacey’s boss tells her,
“‘Life is long.’
‘Really?’ I frowned at her, suspicious. ‘I always thought the opposite.’
‘Darling,’ she said. ‘I’ve been a Republican, an Independent, and a Democrat. A blonde, a brunette, and a redhead. Straight, gay, questioning. Life is long.’
There’s always something new to learn. Something new to try.”
Long story short, I loved this book. I would have thoroughly enjoyed it without the way my life intruded. But the two things put together just made it that much sweeter.
I don’t have a pretty bow in which to wrap these musings, aside from the knowledge that there is no one right reaction. Lacey (validly) struggles for the duration of the novel with the decision of whether to opt into the surgery or continue with screenings. I chose to share this story because even though I don’t know what my colposcopy will show, I think it’s helpful for women in this situation to know they are not alone. There are answers and options and support systems available.
After two and a half years of dealing with this, my reaction to it still constantly surprises me. I have struggled with anxiety for much of my life, and was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder and panic disorder when I was in college. This is the kind of thing that should completely set me off. But it doesn’t? I haven’t figured out how to mentally reconcile that – it makes me nervous, but not irreparably so. I see a bug in our apartment and I spontaneously vomit. I get a call that there might be precancerous cells in my body and I’m… fine? Spooked but not destroyed? I’m still trying to make sense of that.
I’m surrounded by amazing resources. I love my doctor and her team. She always airs on the side of too much information. There are a number of articles available online. I love the way this one from Planned Parenthood breaks it all down. My best friend is in her final year of medical school and planning on specializing in ob/gyn. She puts it all in language I can understand. My family and friends in NYC are incredibly supportive.
Contact your ob-gyn for more information on pap smears and breast cancer screenings. If you are without access to one, your local Planned Parenthood provides those services as well. Click here to find one near you.