Cover Image: Waiting for the Monsoon

Waiting for the Monsoon

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Member Reviews

Rod Nordland, an accomplished Pulitzer Prize winning foreign correspondent, has crafted a memoir of both gratitude and fortitude. He traveled to over 150 countries including those struck with ongoing wars, internal strife, natural disasters, and famine. His road to the story was never an easy one, but always a rewarding one. Rod’s focus has always been the human side of the story, not battles or their logistics. So, it was surprising to him, approaching 70, that he would be the focus of his own story – an aggressive brain tumor, with a poor prognosis. His memoir tracks his disease and his accomplishments. His fortitude comes from his rough upbringing with a loving mother and siblings, but a father with criminality and abuse. From an early age, he sets his course to overcome and receives help from mentors who can see his potential in achieving and succeeding, professionally and personally. His gratitude unexpectedly comes from his disease. He realizes that the bonds he has formed as a journalist, colleague, friend, father, family member and with a new late-in-life lover, will support and see him through his ordeals to come. To them he is more than his illness – he is a man in full, ready to share his journey from the scientists and physicians who help him navigate the effects of the disease that is intent on limiting him. Emotional, informative, inspiring – highly recommended. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing this title.

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In June of 2019, Pulitzer Prize winning foreign correspondent Rod Nordland was in New Delhi to experience first-hand the “the southwest monsoon, the greatest accumulation of fresh water in the atmosphere anywhere on the planet.” On July 5, he was jogging in Delhi’s Lodhi Gardens when, he writes, “a malignant brain tumor, as yet undiagnosed, struck me down and left me thrashing on the ground.” Nordland was intent on remaining positive, recalling: “I was taken for dead by a mortuary crew, who toe-tagged me with the following ID: ‘Unknown Caucasian male, age 47 and a half.’ Nothing could have cheered me up more. It was only days until my 70th birthday. ‘Well,’ I thought, ‘I could learn to love this tumor.’”

His tumor was a glioblastoma multiforme stage 4, the most aggressive of brain tumors, with a life expectancy post diagnosis of fourteen months. Nordland had reported from 150 countries, most of them going through violent upheavals, and he ran the war-zone news bureaus in six of them. He had repeatedly faced down his own death. But his grim diagnosis caused him to lean into the phenomenon of the Second Life, appreciating even more his First Life prior to the terminal diagnosis.

Nordland’s memoir unfolds linerally, starting with his family in Philadelphia — a violent father who routinely beat his mother and a “devoted” mother “determined to protect her children.” Nordland’s mother left her husband, taking with her their six children, divorced him, and found menial work to support her family. His father was repeatedly arrested, convicted and termed a “predatory pedophile” who died in an Idaho prison. Nordland bore the burden of his parentage by “gravitat[ing] toward stories about vulnerable people, especially women and children—since they will always be the most vulnerable in any society—being exploited or mistreated by powerful men or powerful social norms.”

After having to repeat the eleventh grade, Nordland became the type of overachiever “parents dream of.” He attended Penn State on a full scholarship, shifted his focus from biochemistry to journalism and, after graduating college, started a job as a staff reporter on a major metro daily. His big break occurred when his newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting on the Three Mile island disaster. That lead to a posting to Bangkok, Thailand to cover “everything east of Afghanistan,” and a life of “wandering around different foreign countries, where I didn’t speak the language or know the culture but managed to find stories.”

Each chapter of his stirring memoir begins with an “interlude,” a dispatch Nordland sent from around the globe, followed by his recollections of stints reporting from far flung locales — Darfur to Zimbabwe, Cambodia to Syria, and Bahrain to Sarajevo. The second part of the memoir focuses on Nordland’s effort to fight back against his health crisis and to embrace his Second Life. He reconnects with his former wife and their three children, with whom he had been estranged since the divorce. Years into his diagnosis, with no new cancer and occasional, manageable seizures, Nordland writes with gratitude for the time he has remaining and provides a clear-eyed perspective on his own mortality. Thank you Mariner Books and Net Galley for an advanced copy of this moving and inspiring memoir.

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Love Rod! Very insightful journey about family, career, and health. Can’t wait for this one to come out.

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