Living in Bonus Time: Surviving Cancer, Finding New Purpose

Reviewed by:

G. Connor Salter, Professional Writing alumnus from Taylor University, Upland, IN.

Title:

Living in Bonus Time: Surviving Cancer, Finding New Purpose

Author:

Alec Hill

Publisher:

InterVarsity Press

Publication Date:

January 7, 2020

Format:

Paperback

Length:

216 pages

OVERVIEW

“Four out of ten of us will be diagnosed with cancer during our lifetimes,” Alec Hill points out in his introduction. Consequently, there’s a phenomenally good chance you know a cancer patient, possibly someone in your own family. Hill has had the unique experience of contracting two very rare kinds of unconnected cancer, and surviving both times. He describes the struggles he went through during and after his cancer treatments, and examines three areas that all cancer survivors have to deal with:

  • The suffering that comes from cancer, including asking “why me?” when you get it and when you survive it
  • The ways identity changes after surviving cancer, including losing the illusion of control
  • The capacity to grow and wisely use the time cancer survivors have left

Along the way, Hill includes summaries of stories by people who’ve experienced and learned from great suffering.

Generally, books about surviving disease or addiction take one of two routes. One route is to tell the story in a very objective way, with lots of references to other resources, with clear conclusions or takeaways. Another route is to write the story like a memoir or creative nonfiction piece, making it hard to tell what the takeaways are but really capturing the chaos that rages when going through hard times. Hill leans toward the first route, but doesn’t use that format as a copout to make cancer survival seem easy. For one thing, he admits that even after being cancer-free, survivor’s guilt makes it hard to keep going and find new purpose. For another, he connects the questions that cancer patients ask to larger philosophical concerns like the problem of evil. In doing so, he gives readers a vision for life during and after suffering which doesn’t just apply to cancer. In fact, the book’s vision shows anyone who’s gone through trials what they need to admit their pain, hold onto faith, and find new purpose.

ASSESSMENT

Rating (1 to 5 stars)

5 stars

Suggested Audience

Readers who have contracted cancer, survived cancer, or have relatives who fit into either of those two groups. Readers who have experienced other life-altering diseases will find Hill’s insights helpful as well.

Christian Impact

Hill gives readers plenty of insights into how cancer patients can find new purpose and opportunities to trust God as they undergo cancer treatments and adjust to live as cancer survivors. He particularly shows readers how to balance trusting God with lamenting pain, a skill that too many Western churches don’t emphasize.

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