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CHERI by Jo Ann Beard
It’s said that, at the time of death, your life flashes before your eyes. But what of dying, when it is slow and protracted and expected? For Cheri Tremble (a real person whose thoughts Beard reimagines and to whom Cheri is dedicated), vivid memories materialise before her eyes as cancer takes over her body. The closer to death she gets, the more frequent they become. It is a small mercy; the visions are warm and comforting. They also steel her resolve; she takes control of her fate and tracks down Dr Death himself, Jack Kevorkian.
Much like Helen Garner’s elegant elegy for a friend, The Spare Room, Cheri is a heartfelt meditation on family, friendship, dignity and death. There’s an air of fatalism to it all, a resolute determination that one should die as well one lived. Beard clearly has an enormous heart and the gift of exquisite prose to commit it to the page without seeming cheesy. There is much to delight in what could have been a maudlin affair. Cheri is funny, generous and kind. Kevorkian is no ghoulish spectre. A lovely book in its refusal to get lost in the shit of cancer’s injustice.
Cheri by Jo Ann Beard
Serpent’s Tail, 2023