Author's description. The strand of pearls Janie's mother gave her for her birthday represents the story recounted in Pearls For My Birthday. The thread running through the pearls symbolizes the life journey she took while she cared for her mother who had lung cancer. The pearls are symbolic of the episodes in a daughter's struggle to keep her mom alive, against medical odds.Anecdotes related by Janie's mother's friends punctuate the book. Their wise tales put a knot of hope between each iridescent pearl Janie clung to, as she was pulled to a new understanding. Pearls For My Birthday is about love, compassion, and forgiveness between a mother and a daughter, whose roles are often reversed during that four months. Janie's mother revisited her life story, filled with passion, her fears, and the aspirations of her youth. She revealed her best times and her worst times, her weaknesses and her strengths. Eventually, with her mother's guidance, Janie accepted her mom was dying. Not morbid or maudlin, this is a celebration of life.