Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Guest Blogger: Linda Merlino, Author of Belly of the Whale

Today I'm delighted to welcome Linda Merlino as a guest blogger here at Bookish Ruth. Look for my review of Linda's novel, The Belly of the Whale, tomorrow. -- Ruth

Author Linda Merlino
I am NOT a breast cancer survivor, but I wrote a story about a woman with breast cancer. Belly of the Whale is not a novel about breast cancer. The story is about fear, about facing your fear, and recognizing fear when it manifests. Survival comes in all forms, it depends on what hand you are dealt. For me, survival has meant getting by on my own. This began at the age of three. No, I wasn’t left at the side of the road, but I was abandoned by my father and had to learn to navigate the planet adjusting to his being gone.

Never for a minute think that the loss of a parent at a young age is easy. There is always the question of why, and if I was better would that have changed anything. Hudson Catalina carries the loss of her mother, at the age of fourteen, deep in her heart. She fears the beast, breast cancer. For twenty-four years she has run away from the demon that has haunted her only to realize that she must face this fear head on.

I’ve learned a lot about survival, and my book Belly of the Whale brings much of what I learned to its pages. Sometimes what is written causes a visceral reaction. Sometimes it is easier to deny emotional truth with outrage. The response from readers of Belly of the Whale has overall been very positive, but a few have found the main character to be a person one might love to hate. Very often the truth is too difficult to face, the possibilities of the how’s and why’s are not greeted with an open heart. Better to deny, than to embrace.

My mother is a breast cancer survivor. Her survival has everything and nothing to do with breast cancer. Her most recent fight for her life came from an infarction of the superior mesenteric artery. Not cancer. She survived. Her doctors are still in awe of her determination, of her sheer will to stay glued to the planet. This embodies survival. This embraces hope.

I do not feel that I need to defend my story. There comes a time, even if it is one day, that we might feel the need to pull the covers up over our head; to let go of hope; to free fall. For those who are staunchly defensive of their position in never wavering from loss of hope, I applaud them. This is very brave and requires an amazing amount of will power. To never, even for a minute, think a negative thought is remarkable. Bravo.

For all those who have questioned and had moments of indecision, for all those who have stood on the precipice of hopelessness, Belly of the Whale will remind you what it is like to be reeled in, to reconfirm your faith and your spirit and to acknowledge the fact that we are human and that there are times when we are tested seemingly beyond our capabilities.


  1. Great post, Ruth. I've read Belly of the Whale and I think it's extraordinary.

  2. BermudaOnion & Scobberlotcher: Thank you! I really enjoyed Belly of the Whale and can't wait to post my thoughts.

    And thanks, Linda, for a great post. I lost my father when I was 8 years old, so this sentence in particular really resonated with me: "Never for a minute think that the loss of a parent at a young age is easy."

  3. Thanks to all. Writing is an act of faith for sure.

    Best, Linda

  4. Love this guest post...really love it!

  5. Wow, you've got a thumbs up and a high five from me, Linda.

  6. Heartfelt post! Linda, thanks for sharing your thoughts, and thanks to Ruth for hosting your post. I'm looking forward to your review, Ruth.

  7. Sounds like my favorite type of book!!!!
    Really enjoyed the post!
    darbyscloset at yahoo dot com