Title: How to Climb the Eiffel Tower by Elizabeth Hein
Publisher: Light Messages Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 328 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
A moving, surprisingly humorous, sometimes snarky novel about life, friendship… and cancer
Lara Blaine believes that she can hide from her past by clinging to a rigid routine of work and exercise. She endures her self-imposed isolation until a cancer diagnosis cracks her hard exterior. Lara’s journey through cancer treatment should be the worst year of her life. Instead, it is the year that she learns how to live. She befriends Jane, another cancer patient who teaches her how to be powerful even in the face of death. Accepting help from the people around her allows Lara to confront the past and discover that she is not alone in the world. With the support of her new friends, Lara gains the courage to love and embrace life. Like climbing the Eiffel Tower, the year Lara meets Jane is tough, painful, and totally worth it.
How to Climb the Eiffel Tower is a genuine portrayal of what it is like to have cancer. Elizabeth Hein does not downplay the physical or emotional aspects that result from such a life-altering diagnosis. While parts of the novel are heartbreaking, it is not bleak or depressing. Instead it is an uplifting story of friendship and healing for main character Lara Blaine as she triumphs over not only cancer but her traumatic past as well.
In the beginning, Lara is not an easy character to like or relate to. She is super smart and extremely dedicated to her job, but she is very disconnected from her co-workers. She leads a rather lonely life and she adheres to a strict schedule in an effort to keep her memories at bay. Her cancer diagnosis is shocking but Lara has no intention of letting her treatments interfere with her life or job. And at first, she is able to do just that but then she is hit hard by the side effects of her treatments and the toughest journey of her life begins when she is forced to accept help from the people around her.
One of the first people Lara befriends is Jane, an older woman who has also been diagnosed with cancer. She and Jane provide one another with emotional support and friendship as they battle their diseases. As Lara shares her burdens with Jane, she begins to heal from her abusive past.
The next person Lara unexpectedly lets into her life is Vanessa Klaitner, and this is the relationship that proves most beneficial both personally and professionally. Vanessa is the HR rep at the firm Lara works for, and with Vanessa’s assistance, Lara finally gets the professional recognition she deserves. Vanessa’s friendship is absolutely priceless and she is the person everyone needs at their side during a crisis. Vanessa steamrolls over Lara’s objections and inserts herself smack dab in the middle of her life which is just what Lara needs.
Lara’s transformation into a likable and sympathetic character is slow, but believable. As she begins to let people into her life, her rough edges begin to soften and her caring, compassionate side begins to fully emerge. Lara is still slow to trust but she does not hesitate to accept friendship when it is offered and by the novel’s end, she begins to open herself to the possibilities of love.
How to Climb the Eiffel Tower by Elizabeth Hein is a hopeful, poignant and inspiring novel. Despite the serious subject matter, it is a story that focuses on the positive while providing a realistic representation of a cancer diagnosis. It is an overall engrossing and thought-provoking novel of friendship that I highly recommend.