Not Exactly What I Had in Mind: An Incurable Love Story

Overview

One week in 1989, Rosemary Breslin got a headache that wouldn't go away. After countless tests and treatments, doctors knew little about her strange disease except that it wasn't AIDS or cancer. Two years later, out of a job, in debt, and worried about insurance, Rosemary was invited out by friends--not knowing this would be the night she met her future husband. This is one woman's story about having a real life while facing the question of how long she might live. Serialized in...
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Not Exactly What I Had in Mind: An Incurable Love Story

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Overview

One week in 1989, Rosemary Breslin got a headache that wouldn't go away. After countless tests and treatments, doctors knew little about her strange disease except that it wasn't AIDS or cancer. Two years later, out of a job, in debt, and worried about insurance, Rosemary was invited out by friends--not knowing this would be the night she met her future husband. This is one woman's story about having a real life while facing the question of how long she might live. Serialized in Self magazine. 208 pp. National ads. Author tour. 40,000 print.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Susan Shapiro

In the winter of 1989, 32-year-old Rosemary Breslin got a headache that wouldn't go away. After many medical tests, transfusions and treatments it was determined that she had a life-threatening rare blood disease with no name -- and with no cure.

Breslin, a New York-based writer and daughter of famed newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin, was about to lose it. She had no job, no money, no confidence, insufficient health insurance and was about to give up her apartment. Then friends fixed her up with Tony Dunne, a sweet set designer and nephew of John Gregory Dunne, Joan Didion and Dominick Dunne. She unexpectedly fell in love and moved into Tony's West Village apartment, where she became obsessed with cleaning and clothes washing. "I had reinvented myself as Donna Reed with a filthy mouth and an edge," she says.

Not Exactly What I Had in Mind is the raw, honest and often inspirational story of her struggles with illness, work and love. Though memoirs of sickness are often overly graphic, morbid and difficult to relate to, Breslin is an idiosyncratic writer who manages to make her story both poignant and universal. At one point, she's at the same hospital where her mother, whom she's named after, died of cancer. She tries desperately to get Tony to propose; after he does, she picks out his next wife in case she doesn't make it.

This book's funniest and most charming sections involve her father, who accompanies her to her doctor's appointments. When she feels helpless, he hands her a credit card and tells her to buy herself expensive clothes. He hounds her to keep writing and she does. She publishes a series of articles on her illness that run in Newsday and the Los Angeles Times. She writes scripts for N.Y.P.D. Blue.

In another unusual twist, her father also winds up in the hospital. "My father got an aneurysm in his brain," she writes. "Of course, he doesn't get some wimpy thing like me. He goes for the gold. I'd always known he was going to steal the attention away from me in this whole illness thing." Her father revives and writes a book titled I Want to Thank My Brain for Remembering Me, published last year, in which Rosemary is a character -- so the two now have dueling memoirs. They're both terrific storytellers. She's obviously inherited his blood, strength, guts, sense of humor and -- lucky for us -- his writing talent. Not Exactly What I Had in Mind is a riotous and oddly romantic debut. -- Salon

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Since 1989, Breslin, a freelance writer and daughter of journalist Jimmy, has been battling a mysterious blood disease that threatens her life and that physicians have been unable to identify. In this candid and funny memoir, Breslin recounts how she managed to hang on to a zest for living despite arduous treatments and astronomical medical bills. Because the disease attacks her red blood cells, she must have frequent infusions of gamma globulin supplemented by transfusions. In the midst of her illness, Breslin met and married Tony Dunne, nephew of John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion; their love, according to the author, is the mainstay of her life. She also has supportive friends and family, including her father, with whom she claims to have a combative, loving relationship. Rosemary's aggressive spirit has helped her deal with a bureaucratic medical system as well as a serious bout with pneumonia, and here it makes for a lively, frank-talking memoir.
Library Journal
Journalist Breslin, whose essays about living with a mysterious blood disease have won her countless supporters, finds love during one of her darkest moments.
Library Journal
Journalist Breslin, whose essays about living with a mysterious blood disease have won her countless supporters, finds love during one of her darkest moments.
— Wilda Willams
— Wilda Willams
— Wilda Willams
— Wilda Willams
— Wilda Willams
— Wilda Willams
School Library Journal
YA-While in her early 30s, Breslin became seriously ill from a blood disease so rare that her doctors were and remain baffled about its diagnosis and treatment. She tells the story of her life openly and humorously, and it is quite a life. She is no angel, and was even less so in her teens and 20s, following the rules she thought appropriate, disregarding the rest. But she is resourceful, witty, talented, and a terrific fighter. During her endless tests, procedures, and hospitalizations, her father, Jimmy Breslin, is by her side, literally and figuratively, and her stepmother and many friends are enormously supportive. YAs will connect with this heartwarming love story told by a heroine unafraid to show her warts. Her writing style is fast-paced, funny, achingly painful, yet totally engaging. Breslin believes that her illness has made possible three miraculous gifts: life with her beloved husband; her newly acquired feelings of self-worth and self-acceptance; and the rewards found in her writing abilities. These far outweigh what she doesn't have: a baby, or expectation of a long life. It's not what she expected, but it's more than okay with her.Judy Sokoll, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Kirkus Reviews
A self-proclaimed "motor mouth from hell," who comes on like a ditzy, spoiled valley girl with a flip New York edge, chronicles her struggle with irreversible anemia and the romance that changes her life.

Scriptwriter Breslin is in her early 30s and already two years into her debilitating affliction when she meets Tony Dunne, a solid, brooding type ("the thinking woman's football player") who builds movie sets and has his own history of problems. Her self- esteem is in the toilet: "Everything about me is 'used to.' I used to have a job, used to be well, used to have money and an apartment. I used to be somebody." She falls head over heels, as does Tony, though he's unprepared to meet "the marriage monolith . . . in full force." But that doesn't deter Rosemary or much affect her addictive shopping habits. She schemes, manipulates, even pilfers money from Tony's pockets to support her overdeveloped sense of entitlement; at one point she owns up to having "not a penny in my pocket" for the rent or back taxes or any of a host of creditors, but she does have "a $500 sweater and $260 shoes"—those courtesy of her father, newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin, who gets off, she says, on the idea of dropping money to hide pain, of which she has plenty. Some unidentifiable antibody is killing off Rosemary's red blood cells; her survival depends on regular massive gamma globulin transfusions plus other, experimental therapies. Rosemary and her father carry on a dance of collusion and collision, he representing success, competition, authority, all of which she resists.

To the extent that she exploits her experience of chronic illness to expose her self-centeredness and lack of impulse control, Breslin consigns her story to the realms of sitcom and soap opera. Once she achieves the affirmation of mutual love and professional recognition, however, she can claim to be a model of survival.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812992281
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/4/1997
  • Pages: 229
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.50 (d)

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