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Written with clarity and grace, this memoir of an adolescent boy’s four-year struggle with leukemia, his untimely death at sixteen, and the aftermath is presented from three perspectives. Using journals and recollection, Noe’s father Phil Wolfson recalls the events chronologically. His son’s chemotherapy journal offers a stricken teenager’s private view of illness, his wrestling with such enormous stress while striving to live within the framework of “normal” expectations for adolescence. The third perspective derives from the author’s realization that his intimate relationship with Noe continues after death. Channeling his son’s spirit, the author writes in his place, sharing with readers a near-adult view of living with illness and losing the battle to survive it.
Noe reveals the inner world of familial love and discord, Noe’s own remarkable coping, and the extraordinary stress Noe’s illness had on his younger brother. It describes the quest for emotional and spiritual support through therapy, contact with renowned alternative healers, and the use of the drug MDMA for enhancing relationships. With poignant descriptions of an assisted dying process, Noe moves beyond a model of bereavement to offer a reminder of love’s transcendence.
Praise for Noe
“There is no doubt Phil Wolfson’s poignant and thoughtful Noe will break your heart. There is also no question Noe will strengthen your heart, as well as deepen your sensitivity and widen your range of emotions. A seasoned psychiatrist, Wolfson shares, through unbroken honesty and thoughtful prose, the toughest story a parent could tell. Yet out of the depths of his family’s tragedy, Wolfson enriches our emotional knowledge, better equipping us for the blows, large and small, sure to befall us all.”
—Franz Wisner, author of the New York Times best-selling Honeymoon with My Brother and How the World Makes Love
“A sensitive chronicle of the vagaries of love and the struggle to stay clear and present despite great stress and difficulty. Noe can serve as a guide to those who are living through overwhelming personal crises, facing their own or a beloved’s death. It charts the possibilities for coming apart, staying together, and the choices that will have to be made during and after a great illness. A terrific book for fathers building a new culture of connection with their children.”
—Jerry Jampolsky, MD, founder of The Center for Attitudinal Healing and author of Love Is Letting Go of Fear
“Phil Wolfson has beautifully written a loving threnody to his son, Noah, who died young, much too young, of cancer. The work takes us deep into the sorrow and courage that lies in the most tender and vulnerable recesses of the human heart, until, finally, we are there, with Noah, walking alongside him on his via dolorosa. And we come to understand that we are walking with Wolfson and his family as well and, ultimately, with each other, sharing the grief that life brings us, and that the music of this book, this healing paean, is helping us along our way.”
—Lew Carlino, director and screenwriter of Resurrection and The Great Santini