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Reviews of Waiting for the Monsoon by Rod Nordland

Waiting for the Monsoon

by Rod Nordland

Waiting for the Monsoon by Rod Nordland X
Waiting for the Monsoon by Rod Nordland
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  • Published:
    Mar 2024, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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About this Book

Book Summary

A legendary New York Times war correspondent delivers his unforgettable final dispatch: a deeply moving meditation on life inspired by his sudden battle with terminal brain cancer.

For thirty years, Rod Nordland shadowed death. As one of his generation's preeminent war correspondents, he reported in over 150 countries, many of which were in violent upheaval, and was no stranger to witnessing tragedy. But in summer 2019, during the height of India's erratic monsoon season, Nordland was suddenly faced with a tragedy of his own: he collapsed in the middle of a morning jog, was rushed to the hospital, and diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor.

After decades chasing conflicts across the globe, Nordland, now confined to a hospital bed, found the strength to face more personal conflicts. He reconnected with his estranged children and became closer with them than he ever thought possible. He repaired a friendship with a best friend that had been broken for twenty years. The arrogance and certitude that dominated his every action was replaced by a lucid sense of humility and generosity that persisted even after he left the hospital. Norland's tragedy became, in his own words, "a gift that has enriched my life."

Waiting for the Monsoon is the exemplary story of confronting death with both eyes open, and of the human capacity to persevere even in the most difficult of times. With tremendous clarity, grace, and courage, Nordland has delivered a powerful final assignment, revealing how facing the unknown can transform experience and change our relationship to the world around us.

My Second Life

The following article was written from my bed in the Weill Cornell Medical Center's neurology ICU and published on a full page of the Sunday edition of the New York Times.

"WAITING FOR THE MONSOON"
By Rod Nordland
New York Times, September 1, 2019


I routinely give titles to my journals, in which I have long recorded interviews, appointments, odd thoughts, and cris de coeur. My journal commencing June 17, 2019, is called "Waiting for the Monsoon."

The Indian summer has always fascinated me, and I was in New Delhi, experiencing its climatic extremes firsthand.

Summer is when the heat of the subcontinent's vast plains generates an enormous mass of warm air that pushes against the impenetrable massif of the Himalayas to the north, while the west wind drives clouds from the broiling Arabian Sea across the country.

Heat builds to inhuman levels: days of 125 degrees Fahrenheit are not unheard-of; 110-degree days, or 43 Celsius, are common, with humidity sometimes approaching 100 ...

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The title of Rod Nordland's autobiography could be a metaphor for the death he knows is coming for him after a stage 4 glioblastoma diagnosis, or for any of the many crises he has faced in his eventful life as a foreign correspondent for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Newsweek, and the New York Times. But it's also literal: in July 2019, he was reporting in India just before its rainy season began. A bystander found him suffering from a grand mal seizure and hailed an ambulance. At the hospital, doctors discovered a brain tumor and he was medevacked to New York City's Weill Cornell Medical Center for surgery, which took place on his 70th birthday. Afterwards, his surgeon was frank, telling Nordland he might get 15 more months, but that brain cancer would kill him eventually. "Waiting for the Monsoon" was the title he gave to the journal, and then the New York Times article, he wrote about his experience...continued

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(Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).

Media Reviews

The Spectator (UK)
A moving memoir of a life bravely lived.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
This is a man who has seen it all, and he sure does know how to tell a story.

Publishers Weekly
Pulitzer-winning New York Times reporter Nordland (The Lovers) details the fallout from being diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor in this devastating yet inspiring memoir...Nordland writes with palpable gratitude for whatever time he has remaining and provides a stirringly clear-eyed perspective on his own mortality. Readers are sure to be moved by this openhearted account.

Author Blurb Jill Abramson, former executive editor of The New York Times and author of Merchants of Truth
An unforgettable, moving book by an intrepid foreign correspondent for The New York Times. Though Nordland spent a career witnessing death on the battlefield, it is his own experience with a deadly illness that teaches him how to live with gratitude rather than hubris. It is a deeply personal story that will help readers recognize the urgency of repairing their most important relationships and what really matters in life.

Author Blurb Lynsey Addario, Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, Macarthur Fellowship recipient, and New York Times bestselling author of It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War
This is, by far, the most enlightening and inspiring book on facing death—and on discovering the beauty of life. ...One of the most intrepid and talented war correspondents of the past four decades, Rod Nordland has written a love letter to his second chance at life. ... An extraordinary tale of the power of the mind to survive—in war and in the face of the prognosis of one's own death.

Author Blurb Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down
Powerful...Waiting for the Monsoon shows the life of a foreign correspondent to be both as vital and seductive as ever.

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Beyond the Book

Terminal Illness Memoirs

Terminal illness memoir book jacketsRationally, we all know death is coming, but how many truly believe it? Most people only accept the inevitability when forced to by accident or terminal illness. Ironically, such a diagnosis can lend a new lease on life, as it did for Rod Nordland, author of Waiting for the Monsoon. Rereading E.M. Forster's Howards End recently, I came across the line "Death destroys a man, but the idea of death saves him" – maybe the confirmation of mortality is the spur we need to live courageously and with abandon.

"Terminal" doesn't always mean death is imminent, after all. Australian author Clive James published 10 books of poetry and essays between a terminal leukemia diagnosis and his death, while poet Christian Wiman has produced six books...

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