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Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home: A Memoir (Paperback)
Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home begins at the grave of Katagiri Roshi, Natalie’s Zen teacher, in Japan. Twenty years after Katagiri’s death and Natalie’s return to New Mexico, she is permanently settled in Santa Fe with her partner, Yukwan. Except that, as Buddhism teaches us, nothing is permanent. Natalie learns that she has CLL, a potentially fatal form of blood cancer.
For two years, Natalie dances with her cancer—visiting doctor after doctor, attempting treatment after treatment. Nothing helps; in fact, one of the treatments only feeds the cancer and encourages its growth. Then Natalie’s partner, Yukwan discovers that she, too, has cancer—breast cancer—as well as an off-the-charts oncotype score that requires her to have surgery immediately. The cancer twins, as Natalie calls herself and Yukwan, now must each navigate her own illness, carve out her own cancer territory. Each can provide only limited emotional and physical energy for the other. And, somehow, they both need to find a way to stay together, to stay in love—and to heal.
As the title expresses, Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home is so much more than a cancer memoir. Through a direct and grounded narrative, Natalie illuminates a path through illness: that we need to be in love with the lives we have, to embrace the dark and the light in our lives. For Natalie, writing and painting represent the light, and her cancer takes her deeper into her art practices. Balanced with a Zen practice that helps to her face death, this book is a moving meditation on living life in full bloom.
—Ruth Ozeki, author of A Tale for the Time Being
“This is the book that didn’t exist: an unflinchingly gorgeous exploration of being sick while being very much alive. Natalie does not turn away from her pain and fear, but faces them directly, often with great tenderness. The result is that we can’t look away either. By not shielding us from her sorrow, we see more clearly our own. Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home is both generous and wise, glorious proof that our darkest moments are also our most illuminating, that being vulnerable is an act of true courage, and that often we are most present and awake when our future is uncertain. This book is both a comfort and a wonder. I couldn’t put it down.”
—Katie Arnold, author of Running Home
“This riveting and deeply honest book is for all of us. It opens up the road of diagnosis, dying, and life in a way no other book I have read does. It is a powerful narrative of truth and rawness that will touch and teach us.”
—Joan Halifax, PhD; abbot, Upaya Zen Center, founder of the Project on Being with Dying, author of Being with Dying and Standing at the Edge
“Fragile, bare, and enormous, Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home masterfully prepares us, young and old, with medical wisdom, love, and insight for our inevitable moments of facing death.”
—Kazuaki Tanahashi, author of Painting Peace
“With alert stillness infused with intention, Natalie Goldberg meets mortality head-on. Beautifully written, this is a book about love, loss, and down-to-the-marrow courage.”
—Wendy Johnson, author of Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate
“An honest, real, and sometimes raw meeting with life and death without apology. Brilliant.”
—Frank Ostaseski, author of The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully
“In emotionally intense prose, Goldberg skillfully portrays the sorrow that can invade relationships when people are dealing with cancer ('Cancer demanded that I let the whole thundering world come home, that I accept the horror and unknown of human life—and death') and recalls her anxiety about death, her fear of the lack of control over her condition, and her desire to avoid acknowledging the impermanence of life. Despite her suffering, Goldberg holds to the teachings of Zen: pay attention to this moment, savor every experience, and live life in full bloom with vigor and gusto.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Goldberg’s account of a courageous, emotional journey is a meditation on living, not merely surviving—a guide for not only those gripped by illness but also for those confronting forces beyond their control.”