Alice Culvert is a force: passionate, independent, smart, and gorgeous, she—to her delight—attracts attention wherever she goes, even amid the buzz of mid-90s New York. In knee-high boots, with her newborn daughter, Doe, strapped to her chest, Alice is one of those people who just seem so vividly alive, which makes her cancer diagnosis feel almost incongruous. How could such a being not go on? But all at once, Alice’s existence, and that of her husband Oliver, is reduced to a single purpose: survival. As they combat the disease, the couple must also face off against the serpentine healthcare system, the good intentions of loved ones, and the deep, dangerous stressors that threaten to push the two of them apart. With veracity, humor, wisdom, and love, Charles Bock navigates one family’s unforgettable story – inspired by his own.
Title: Alice & Oliver
Author: Charles Bock
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Publisher: Random House
Published: April 5, 2016
Format: Kindle edition, 416 pages
Reading Alice & Oliver is not an easy thing. Having lived through similar circumstances in my family of the terminally ill and dying, I again wanted to make everything all right. Humans aren’t always equipped to do that.
Charles Bock tells a poignant, heartbreaking, at times witty, and compelling story based, as noted in the synopsis, on his own family. This fact alone provides a foundation for the incredible love shown between Alice and Oliver and for the veracity of Alice’s love and commitment to Doe. What mother isn’t afraid of leaving her child alone? Not to mention leaving her child alone when mother doesn’t know the longevity left within her.
Bock paints a beautiful picture of Alice not only as a woman willing to step into the world in all her gorgeousness with a beautiful baby girl strapped to her. And having done so, Alice steps along with the energy and vitality of a young, healthy mother with her next great adventure waiting within her reach. Alice loves every minute of the attention she draws. What young woman doesn’t?
Suddenly, everything changes. Bock then takes the reader on the love ride of their life. Alice and Oliver join hands and hearts once again, as they did the day they married, and commit to the fight of their lives–saving Alice. Alice is left to fight her illness; Oliver launches headlong into fighting the healthcare system and the adherent serpent we call insurance. Together, they fight the good intentions of family members who don’t seem to understand Alice and Oliver’s need to be together alone and with Doe.
Be forewarned to have tissues at the ready, to be ready to laugh at what seem inappropriate times, to fall in love with this little family. That’s what Charles Bock has written, a family story of love, anger, frustration, dreams, desires, blockades, unwitting hospital staff, unwitting doctors, and more. You will come away feeling as though you are close friends of Alice and Oliver’s wanting only the best for them and for Doe.
This is a not-to-be-missed book! If you don’t read it, it isn’t going to be my fault or the fault of others who have reviewed it. And it certainly won’t be Charles Bock’s fault. After all, he wrote it so you could read it.
Charles Bock is the author of the novels Alice & Oliver and Beautiful Children, which was a New York Times bestseller and Notable Book, and which won the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Harper’s, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Slate, as well as in numerous anthologies. He has received fellowships from the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, Yaddo, UCross, and the Vermont Studio Center. Charles is a graduate of the Bennington Writing Seminars. He lives with his wife, Leslie Jamison, and his daughter in New York City.
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Learn more about Charles Bock on his website.