Author: Evan Handler

ISBN: 978-0-7867-5478-6

The beginning of this book is what I imagine it would be like to get shot out of a cannon. I felt a palpable ache in my chest as I read Evan Handler’s account of being told he had a very deadly form of leukemia, and that ache was mitigated only by the humorous lens through which he processed this information.

This beginning was apt, given that the remainder of the book was steeped in dark humor that likely enabled Handler to avoid either screaming constantly or erupting in homicidal rage. More than a deeply emotional account of his own exile from the extraordinary life of a successful young actor, this book is a frighteningly honest portrayal of the challenges inherent in navigating the complex system of care he needed to recover. Handler gives amazingly vivid descriptions of the alien world he found himself in and uses his uniquely sardonic perspective to lighten some very dark moments as well as pointing out the absurd obstacles he faced at nearly every turn.

As his family struggled to advocate for him and support him during his treatment and recovery, Handler discovered that the family dynamics and assumptions he took for granted most of his life were beginning to chafe. His ruminations on how his tendency to placate others add a depth to the story is absolutely brilliant, given the fact that a cancer diagnosis, or any other serious crisis facing a family unit, tends to magnify and illuminate the cracks as much as the strengths. His gift of humor is welcome and I found myself laughing out loud again and again. Whether or not you can relate to the details of his story, the bureaucratic roadblocks and obstinate, ego-driven professionals he encountered resonate with us all. Handler’s chutzpah in facing those situations with honesty and purpose is refreshing and empowering. He shows himself as a determined, thoughtful, deliberate patient who is also terribly human. His neuroses and frustrations are humorous and heartbreaking and it is impossible to stop rooting for him.

The supporting cast of “Time on Fire” includes a sibling with Tourette’s syndrome, an incredibly faithful girlfriend, Handler’s concerned parents and some of the actors with whom Handler has worked over the years. The not-always-flattering portrayals of each of these important individuals are nonetheless evidence of Handler’s deep affection and appreciation for their role in this difficult time in his life. He does a masterful job of leading the reader through his diagnosis and various treatments as though we were right there with him. This story is so incredibly human with its sorrow, anger, hope and humor that I nearly forgot I don’t know any of these people personally.


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