- Lopsided: A Memoir by Meredith Norton
- Paperback: 211 pages
- Publisher: Penguin (May 26, 2009)
- ISBN-13: 978-0-14-311563-2
Back-of-the-Book Blurb: By the age of thirty -four , Meredith Norton had been a hymnal editor, art restorer, game-show producer, and a public school teacher. She’d even lived in a tree house and shepherded goats in Minorca. But none of these unusual experiences prepared her for the most dramatic turn her life would take: the diagnosis of an aggressive form of breast cancer. In this … memoir, Norton approaches the disease with a refreshing combination of humor and tenacity, railing against victimhood and self-pity and refusing to become a stereotype.
She is Too Fond of Books’ review: Meredith Norton has found her calling as a storyteller. Following an ivy-league education, a string of unusual and varied jobs, marrying her French husband (Thibault) and settling in Paris with their son (Lucas), she returns to the US for a quick visit with family and to celebrate her son’s first birthday. Her short vacation turns into an extended stay when she is diagnosed with breast cancer.
Lopsided is an account of her response to the diagnosis – the on-going treatments, the reactions of family and friends, her thoughts as she contemplates Lucas’ possible future without her.
Early in the book Norton shares when she first suspected there was a problem – thinking that she might have an infection stemming from breast feeding. Any woman who has has breast fed will recognize the first part of the paragraph, maybe even smile and nod along as you read it. You’ll continue nodding and agree with Norton that, yes, there’s a problem:
Anyone who’s ever breast-fed, or spent any time around a breast-feeder, knows how crazy lactating can be. Nipple size and food-making capability aside, lactating breasts behave oddly. One minute they are huge, the next minute deflated, then rock hard, then lumpy. They squirt milk in the shower or soak your shirt when a baby cries on television. One of mine was huge, throbbing, covered with a red rash, and radiating enough heat to defrost a lamb shank in ten minutes. It was like an unpredictable little alien I carried around. Even in the kooky world of milk-making tits, this one worried me.
Don’t let that excerpt fool you into thinking that Norton is flippant about the diagnosis. The lighter tone and snappy style make Lopsided a quick, personal read. She shares her thoughts on friends who come out of the woodwork, friends who stay away, her reactions to some of the darkest days – when she learned that her ovaries had stopped functioning, when she was told that a mastectomy was not the end of her treatment, and when describing some of the side effects of the disease and its treatment, including peripheral neuropathy, a painful sensitivity in the extremities.
In a rare passage of introspection, Norton considers her, and our, ultimate cores:
People are who they are. Personalities don’t change, just circumstances. It is my firm belief that adversity only strips the insulation from the foundation. If the foundation is weak, corrupt, or solid, its nature is simply revealed. Few situations are so harrowing as to build or deplete character. You either have it, or you don’t.
Meredith Norton has it – character in every sense of the word. She puts it to work in Lopsided. I recommend the memoir, and hope that Norton continues to write; her candid style is refreshing.
Here is the author at a reading at Book Passages (Corte Madera, California). Note that the original title is Lopsided: How Breast Cancer Can Be Really Distracting, it has been shortened for the paperback.