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Silverman, M.A. (2003). City Of One. A Memoir., by Francine Cournos, New York: Plume (Penguin Putnam), 2000, 254 pp... Psychoanal Q., 72(4):1060-1068.

(2003). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 72(4):1060-1068

City Of One. A Memoir., by Francine Cournos, New York: Plume (Penguin Putnam), 2000, 254 pp..

Review by:
Martin A. Silverman

What do you do when you wake up from a terrible nightmare and realize that you haven't been asleep at all? You've been wide awake the whole time—and you haven't been dreaming! The nightmare was real! And it's not over! This is what happened to 11-year-old Francine Cournos on August 29, 1956.

Eight years earlier, when she was only three, her father died, suddenly and unexpectedly, of a cerebral hemorrhage. A brain tumor had invaded his body as a silent marauder that was intent upon destroying him. When it fulfilled its task, it set in motion a sequence of events that also destroyed any chance Francine might have had of having a happy childhood.

A jovial, kindly grandfather did his best to fill the void created by the departure of Francine's father. He didn't stay around very long, however. Two years later, he, too, suddenly died. A bleeding ulcer spilled his life's blood out of him. Shortly thereafter, Francine's mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a disfiguring radical mastectomy. City of One begins with a stark and graphic visual image of the missing breast.

This time, the disease process was less hasty in its determination to remove yet another vital piece from Francine's chessboard. It made up for taking its time while it snuffed out her mother's life by devastating her body as cruelly as it could man- age. For the next six years, Francine looked on as her mother's body was ravaged by the spreading swarm of cellular locusts that was devouring her bit by bit and piece by piece until it managed, literally, to squeeze the breath out of her.


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