Despite being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, successful, single, thirty-something Jenifer chooses to soldier on--even when confined to her bed--to show that love and memory are the best weapons against a vicious enemy.
By the time 40-year-old Jenifer Estess died of ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) last December, she and her sisters had founded an organization Project A.L.S. to find a cure for this fatal neuromuscular disease. This fast-paced, witty book, written with one of her sisters, is both a memoir of Jenifer's six-year struggle with the disease and a chronicle of Project A.L.S.'s birth and work. Unfortunately, the beauty of the writing and the story is compromised by a too-casual structure; even simple chapter titles could have remedied the book's scattered feeling. This haze appears elsewhere, too: for instance, after deciding to found Project A.L.S, the sisters recruited theater colleagues, including Ben Stiller, to help, but they don't explain how Jenifer had made those contacts in the first place (the necessary details of her profession as a theater producer aren't revealed until the book's second half). Flashbacks to Jenifer's romantic history and to her mother's love life are well written and funny, but sometimes feel inappropriate to the story. The book does engage, however, when it details Jenifer's relationship with her supportive friend Reed, who liberates and loves the wheelchair-bound Jenifer. But later, as Jenifer describes her inability to speak or write, readers may wonder how she managed to create this part of the book. The final chapter, though, is beautiful: in a clever, poignant twist, Jenifer continues to narrate her death and its aftermath, bringing the sisters' love and closeness full circle as readers wonder where Jenifer ends and Valerie begins. Agent, Bob Levine. (May 18) Forecast: Publication of the book will coincide with the premiere of Three Sisters: Searching for a Cure, an HBO documentary about the formation of Project A.L.S. That, along with Couric's name on the book and advance praise from Christopher Reeve, will drive sales. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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May 17, 2004
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