Eating Pomegranates: A Memoir of Mothers, Daughters and Genes

'I didn't choose it. Certainly, I didn't choose it. I would have chosen almost anything else. But then what life chooses its subject?' 'The story starts on 14th March 2006. Or at least, that was the day when my disease was given a name.' So begins Sarah Gabriel's extraordinary memoir,Eating Pomegranates. After a troubled upbringing that saw the early death of her mother from cancer, Sarah has learnt to appreciate 'the charms of simple happiness'. With a home, a partner and two beautiful daughters, she intends to write a novel about family relationships. But then at 44, she is diagnosed with breast cancer and learns that while you can turn your back on your past, you can't escape your genetic legacy. The problem is M18T, a rare and deadly mutation on the BRCA1 gene that has already killed her mother and countless female ancestors through the generations. Will it claim another victim? In her struggle for survival, Gabriel takes us on a white-knuckle ride through contemporary genetics, the rigours of her treatments for cancer, and the impact of the disease on her family's dynamics. But the book is about more than the struggle for physical survival.It is also about a fight for identity, for sanity, in which she embarks on a long backwards journey to find out about the mother who disappeared too early from her life. As beautiful as it is brutal, this book is about mothers and about motherless daughters, about a woman so scared of leaving her own children that she is hardly able to mother them herself. It is about moments of tenderness that illuminate a day and thoughtless actions - a friend turning away for fear that misery is contagious - that can nearly break you. The book also turns out to be a memoir of breast cancer itself, from early radical surgeries without anaesthetic through to the founding of a dedicated hospital in the 19th century and on to contemporary treatments. Laced with black humour, written with a mixture of passion and clinical accuracy, this is an extraordinary book about an all too ordinary disease.