Soul to Soul. Writings from Dark Places

Soul to Soul. Writings from Dark Places

by Deborah Masel

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Product Details

BN ID: 2940000965191
Publisher: Gefen Publishing House
Publication date: 07/20/2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 2 MB

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Soul to Soul. Writings from Dark Places 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
LynnCoulter on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This is a tough review to write, and an even tougher book to critique, because the author wrote it as she faced her own death. Deborah Masel (formerly Miller) opens her book by telling the reader she has incurable, metastatic breast cancer, and pleads, "Please don't stop reading. I know it's scary. I'm scared, too." To be honest, I did want to put the book aside immediately. Like many women, I have a special fear of breast cancer, even though I know that statistics say more females die of heart disease. Perhaps it's our heightened awareness these days that makes this particular cancer so frightening; at least, it is for me and almost every woman I know. And besides, what family hasn't been touched by some kind of cancer, and witnessed its ravages and pain?Still, to honor the author (whose physicians told her, from the outset, she had no hope), I read on. I thought her story would heighten my own fears and darken my spirit, and indeed, it did. Masel struggled courageously, but she suffered tremendously as the cancer spread to her lungs, brain, and bones. Particularly disturbing was her description of receiving radiation through a custom-made mask for spots inside her skull. Masel also describes a disquieting disconnect between her head and lower body, since the cancer in her lower body had to be treated differently from that in her brain (chemo, at least at the time Masel wrote, could not pass the blood-brain barrier).However harrowing it is, to read Masel's account of her illness and her spiritual struggles, I honor and respect her for her courage in sharing her story. There are gaps in her account; she says little, toward the end of the book, about the brain surgery she underwent to try to extend her life. But who could possibly do any better, under such circumstances? Still, her book concludes suddenly, as if we've walked a journey of several years with her, through her illness and treatments, and abruptly, she will say no more. Her crainotomy, Masel says, "was for me an ending of sorts," and where she chose to stop recording her thoughts. "Something happened then that opened up an ending; it made a hole great enough to birth the whole of God's creation. And in that ending is the beginning." Again, I am not criticizing. She was extremely ill, and I admire her courage in sharing so much of her experience. But the reader is left wanting more.I believe Masel wants the last words in her book to be uplifting and inspiring to us, as if she's accepted her death and made her peace with God. But, as a Jew, she reveals little to me, a Christian, about her thoughts on the afterlife and/or resurrection. And those final words left me with unanswered questions. I didn't understand what she meant, and I wondered if she was trying to convince herself that death was not the end, as if she was whistling in the dark, or if she really believed it. How did this "hole" open up, after all her struggles with despair and physical suffering, to reveal the hope of eternity and a new creation? What thoughts and beliefs led her to that point? Up to the end of her book, Masel admits to "new hopes pinned on unproven treatments." But if Masel left things unsaid, again, who can fault her? She was in pain, and still produced this remarkably honest, open, heartfelt book. As a person of faith, I admit that I wanted to read more about how Masel found comfort in her relationship with God. That is my bias. Masel, as a Jew, turned to the Torah for strength and direction, and to spirtual teachers and counselors, whereas I would turn to Jesus and the New Testament. Her title, Soul to Soul, comes from a fellow cancer patient, Ben, in whom she sees "a man...awakened to the path of right living." She finds solace in a hug from Ben, when she senses his living spirit and he whispers, "my soul to your soul." When she still senses his presence after his death, she takes it as "a recipe for salvation," or the assurance that "there is some enduring presence after death."Wou
sherylcalmes on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This book was so honestly written that it was at times hard to read because I felt like I could feel the author's pain. It is a very brutal look at cancer and her voyage into uncharted territory. It is extremely well written and invoked a lot of emotional response. I felt like it was a very personal glimpse into another person's darkness. I would recommend it but it is painful to read. Bravo for the author's courage to put this book out there.
hammockqueen on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I found this story to be very honest and unfrightening in the telling. I did have trouble with the Jewish situations, only bec. I couldn't quite fathom them happening. They and the Jewish religion are not a part of my life. I did like the way Deborah explained all the procedures as they were happening for the knowledge one would want. I did like it.
jlundgren2011 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This memoir is written by a woman who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. It tells her story of cancer diagnosis, treatment and life with a terminal illness. Deborah is Jewish and has spent many years studying and teaching Torah. She finds comfort and strength in her faith and she struggles to understand her life's final outcome.While I wanted a bit more details about her relationship with her former rabbi, the dissolution of her first marriage and her current relationships with her children and partner, I could not help be touched by the honesty of her writing when tackling such a difficult subject. Deborah Masel is a strong woman and this book does more than give us a glimpse into her final chapter, but it provides an understanding into the many who have been diagnosed and are fighting their own battles with cancer. It also reminds us to appreciate the fragility of life.
SherylHendrix on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Sadly, Deborah Masel lived only long enough to see the publishing of this her last book, but died this past July. This personal memoir is touching, honest, hopeful, despairing, bleak, full, at times despondent, other times joyful. Deborah derived comfort from a few places, but mostly, it seems, from her interaction with Torah and Talmud. I found her spiritual wonderings insightful for one who approaches life from a Christian faith understanding and relationship. My faith, like hers, derives from an interactive understanding of the very Word of God, but she is much less pat in her understanding of Scripture than I, and much more poetic in her life than I am. Death is very much a mystery to Deborah, whereas to me it seems a clearcut step into eternity with the Father. I have felt close to death just once in my life, although every day I awaken with the knowledge that the next breath could be my last. It seems that Deborah came to a place of acceptance and peace at the end, although it is a little tentative. I found her personal journey personal, and a little like I was an intruder invading her private thoughts. But the book is a stepping off point for those who face the immanent prospects of their own demise, and for that I give it four stars.
acornell on LibraryThing 5 months ago
The writer tells us in the first few sentences that her book is a sad one: a woman's story as she accepts diagnosis and struggles with stage 4 metatastic breast cancer and wends her way through and often unkind and mixed-up health care system (Australian). She requests that we not stop reading even though the journey is a hard one to bear, and it was this simple introduction which lured me in and kept me with it. I felt that I had been chosen to bear witness to the depths of suffering of the human soul.The memoir was most interesting early in the book when she is clearly ill and waiting for the doctor's diagnosis. Her busy life barely lets her rest and it is hard for her to change gears and accept that she must stop and be sick for awhile. Also in the early chapters of the book she goes back through her life and recounts various adventures she had as a young student and a young wife. She recounts tales of being in Israel during the recent Lebanon war. I found her method of storytelling, going back and forth and introducing us to her rich and varied life, interesting. It kept me turning the pages.The constant turning back to tell a story of an earlier version of herself made me hang in limbo about the Cancer it unfolded painfully, but slowly.It lost a little steam in the last half when it was simply chapter after chapter of pain and suffering. She had some epiphanies about accepting death and her journey with the Torah (she was an avid Torah scholar and teacher) always presented divine revelation, but the reading was not as compelling. I felt that the recent chapters were too close to her. Like she just had that treatment last month and was just now writing about it. A writer always needs distance between herself and her subject. But then, it was sad to realize, that Deborah might not have much time to reflect.The story ends with a craniotomy to remove some tumors from her brain and as far as I know Deborah is still alive in Australia teaching Torah and enjoying her family and her precious life.I would recommend this to anyone who is struggling with life or death issues or who wants to read about the ups and downs of the medical establishment.
EllieNYC on LibraryThing 5 months ago
[book:Soul to Soul. Writings from Dark Places|12868314] was written by [author:Deborah Masel|5009815], a Torah scholar who wrote several novels before turning to her study of Torah. I feel especially lucky to have won this book from LibraryThing since it is unlikely I would have read it otherwise.Early on, Masel writes, This is the kind of book I would have shut and turned from-please don't do the same, don't shut me out. With those words, I was completely hooked. I had to stay with Masel through the rest of the journey she shares with us in this book-her journey into the world of a cancer patient, one with late stage metastatic breast cancer.Masel, a vibrant woman with a three almost-grown children, a failed marriage and a still-fairly new relationship as well as career is shattered to discover she has cancer. But the diagnosis is at first reassuring-caught "early," "treatable." Soon, however, the truth emerges as doctor after doctor is proved wrong and Masel is thrown into a very dark reality: not only cancer but stage 4, terminal, cancer.There is no way I can think of to convey the dark beauty of this text without reducing the work to platitudes that would betray the essence of the text-and of Masel's life. She struggles with her terror to find a way to live amidst not only the pain of cancer and fear of death but the dehumanizing world of hospitals, treatments, illness itself. She is clear that she would do anything to avoid the life she now has to live but she is determined that she will live it. She compares her life to the paradox of Schroedinger's Cat: she must live two opposite realities simultaneously. She must live her life as she must also live out her dying.Masel is a poet of spirituality. I am not Jewish but her theology resonated with my Catholic faith and I felt lit up from within by her amazing vision of God's word, faith rituals, and our efforts to live meaningfully in an apparently chaotic, sometimes even malevolent, world. She "chooses" faith because the alternative is unbearable and she brings every ounce of energy she has-and often that she doesn't have-to live out that faith, to give it a shape and substance in her life and her relationships.To say Masel shares her experience honestly also distorts the power of this book. There were times I wanted to shut the cover of the book and run from it, forget the world described in it. It is a deeply scary. At the same time, I was unable to stop reading-I read the book in two sittings. I felt wrecked from both the beauty and the pain conveyed.I hope that people will not shut Masel from their life. I hope people will be brave and read this work. I think it will be something that will change them, if only a little, in a way few books do. It left me wanting to read her other work, to continue my contact with her in some way and to learn more of the faith life she embodied.
chicamimi on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I have to admit that if I hadn't won an Early Reader's copy of this from Library Thing, this isn't a book I would have sought out unless I stumbled upon a lot of reviews from people I trust. I'm so glad that I did read it though. It's the journey of one woman as she goes through the nightmare of breast cancer and how she continued to hold tightly to her spiritual teachings. You get a great look at someone who is trying to balance fighting to live while accepting what might happen.
iddrazin on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Although this book is an autobiographical depiction of a part of Deborah Masel¿s life, it reads like a suspenseful novel because Masel is a good writer who teaches writing and who wrote several books, including two novels. She also edited a book by a mystical rabbi who was murdered in the holocaust, whose world view influenced her greatly and gave her a sense of meaning as she coped with her incurable cancer. This is a book that can help other cancer victims, but because of its style, it will interest many people.She writes that she will be telling ¿many stories¿rivers and rivulets and creeks. This story is about my cancer, it¿s about the ocean where all the rivers meet.¿ I would describe her writing style as being like sea shore waves. The crests of the waves are her tale about discovering a cancer at age 50 that will kill her and how she copped with the terrible sentence. Yet, as she tells us about the cancer, as with waves, she constantly dips down to other interesting subjects. These include her upbringing; early life; use of drugs; losing her virginity at age 16; failed seven year marriage; panic in Safed in Israel during an attack upon the city from Lebanon; saving a man she found lying at the bottom of a pool in Singapore; a relationship with a philandering rabbi who took advantage of her; a man who stalked her believing she was his wife in another incarnation; discovery of Zionism in London; life in Australia; meeting another rabbi who introduced her to mysticism, kabala, and Judaism generally; meeting with her partner Doug; teaching Torah; the books she wrote; and the reactions of her mother and children to her cancer. Readers will find out that while many people helped her cope with her cancer, some doctors did not. They became impatient with her simple understandable questions. ¿¿Look,¿ says he. `I don¿t have time for this.¿¿ A female doctor shouted at her: ¿Stop crying! There¿s nothing I can do!¿In short, this is an interesting well-told story.
lg4154 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I won this book thru Library Thing¿s Early Reviewers and thought it was a real compelling book. Deborah Massel was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2007; this book chronicles her journey through two and a half years of living hell. I found it hard to read at times and had to take frequent breaks. This type of book makes you really think about life and circumstances and really makes you appreciate not having to go thru what Ms. Massel experienced. Knowing that this is autobiographical really pulls at your heartstrings, the writing style of the author makes it seem almost like a suspenseful novel, but it is not unfortunately. I do like the fact that she is Jewish and talks about a lot of the Jewish faith; I have always been fascinated by other religions. It was good to get to know some of her background in this regard. I highly recommend this book to anyone and I am grateful to win a copy for my personal library.