The danger in being happy
This original memoir traces the life of the author from adolescence to adulthood. The narrative revolves around one central loss--the mother's death from breast cancer when the author was sixteen. This loss takes on greater significance when the author's younger sister is diagnosed with the same disease sixteen years later and the author becomes one of the primary caretakers. Her sister's illness causes the author to both relive and reexamine her primary loss, and to try to understand how it has affected her socially, sexually, and emotionally. She comes to see the ways she has clung to the past--by chasing after mother surrogates, by overeating, by avoiding sex, by paying attention to everyone's life but her own. In fact, she comes to realize that she has not claimed an adult life because it is somehow threatening. Happiness as an adult means giving up the safety of childhood.