Nearly Departed

Adventures in Loss, Cancer, and Other Inconveniences

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Pub Date 9 Jul 2024 | Archive Date 1 Jul 2024

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By the time she was thirty, Gila Pfeffer was the oldest living member of her family, having lost both parents to cancer. She underwent genetic testing and, after learning that she carried the BRCA1 gene, decided to have a double mastectomy. That choice saved her life.

This memoir follows her journey to break the cycle of death in her family. After becoming a reluctant expert on how to sit shiva, she grows up, falls in love, and becomes a mother, before her life is derailed yet again.

Her double mastectomy reveals cancer already growing in one breast. After enduring eight rounds of chemo and the removal of her ovaries, she takes her last-ever dip in the mikvah waters as a bald, menopausal, thirty-five-year-old mother of four.

Drenched in Gila’s dark humor, honed over years of repeatedly surviving the worst, Nearly Departed is a story about thriving against the odds, leaning in to her Jewish faith, and leaving a better legacy for her children than the one she inherited.

This file is NOT currently available for Kindle. We apologize for any inconvenience. If you have difficulties with downloading, please email us (at for...

Advance Praise

“This is the perfect book for anyone seeking levity in the face of devastation. Gila’s life is a master class on perspective and how to handle some of life’s darkest moments with fortitude and, most importantly, humor. Gila’s writing is honest, heartfelt, and impressive. It takes an incredible spirit to not only stare down death multiple times, but to also write about it with such a clear head and make it funny. Only read this book if you are okay with both crying and laughing out loud in public.”—Iliza Shlesinger, award-winning comedian, actor, writer, producer, and author

“At turns deeply moving and absurdly funny, this is the unbelievably true story of a woman who made her own luck and saved her own life.”—Leigh Stein, author of Self Care

“If you want to laugh, cry, and laugh some more while enjoying an intimate glance into the mystical world of Orthodox Judaism, this is the book for you.”—Jen Mann, New York Times–bestselling author of People I Want to Punch In the Throat and Midlife Bites

“Nearly Departed is a book about loss, grief, and mortality that nonetheless sparkles with joy. And it is very, very funny. In fact, the darker it got, the more I laughed, which is how you know it was written by a Jew. I loved it.”—Catherine Newman, author of We All Want Impossible Things

“Bringing humor to tragedy is a tightrope act, but Gila does it beautifully.”—Wendi Aarons, author of I’m Wearing Tunics Now

“Part coming-of-age saga, part rallying cry for prevention, Pfeffer shows off her gift for turning tragedy, grief, and loss into something to laugh about.”—Emi Nietfeld, author of Acceptance

“Gila Pfeffer’s writing is so sharp and funny that you almost don’t notice when it starts to break your heart.”—Rax King, author of Tacky

“Not only does she generously share how she has been able to defy the statistics and outsmart her own genetic destiny of the worst of the worst, she illustrates for us the hows and the whys so we can too.”—Jess Buchanan, New York Times–bestselling author of Impossible Odds

“This is the perfect book for anyone seeking levity in the face of devastation. Gila’s life is a master class on perspective and how to handle some of life’s darkest moments with fortitude and, most...

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ISBN 9781891011627
PRICE US$27.95 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

A must read memoir. I cannot say enough about it. A must read about family, parenting, love, loss and perseverance through a preventive cancer surgery and subsequent diagnosis and treatment. The writing is raw, funny, vulnerable and just incredible.

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Gila has such sharp witt and is funny and filled with hope. I loved this book. She has such perseverance through everything. I am high risk for cancer also with family history, and I have considered having a double mastectomy. She holds nothing back and gives it to you straight, while also sharing her fears, but also her joys. And how she found the strength to move forward.
I am excited to get a copy of this and give it to others in my family to read.

Thank you NetGalley for this ARC!

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As someone who also lost both of my parents way too early in life and then also went through a (fortunately, non-cancerous) surgery shortly thereafter, Gila’s story resonated deeply with me. I appreciate her sense of humor, and her willingness to talk about loss, grief and navigating faith & faith traditions amidst it all. The book is a good reminder that sometimes our greatest tragedies and struggles in this life reveal our very purpose.

My thanks to Netgalley, Gila Pfeffer & The Experiment for the digital ARC.

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Gila Pfeffer tells her story—of loss, grief, family/motherhood, and cancer—with so much courage and humor. I would recommend this memoir to anyone, but especially to people at higher risk of breast cancer or with a family history of cancer.

Gila’s approach to prevention, self-advocacy, and personal boundaries was inspiring. She knew what she needed, chose her support system accordingly, and opted to protect her children from knowledge of her illness until they were older. She took charge of her health and wellness and controlled what she could, and she ended up saving her own life. I’m grateful that she decided to share her story.

Thank you, The Experiment, for providing this book for review consideration via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

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This was a powerful true story, told in the first person, regarding Gila Pfeffer's journey with breast cancer. From her mother to herself to other family members, she had to overcome her own and beliefs to 'save her own life'. Clearly she survives, as she has written this book, but what a tortuous path she had to follow. The writing is clear and often light hearted, which can't be easy given the serious nature of her illness, but the story often led to tears - hers and my own. Clear throughout is her strong faith and family connections and I'm convinced she couldn't have done it without that community. I understood very well most of her references to Judaism, but other readers might struggle with her constant references to rituals. Perhaps an appendix on the various beliefs and rituals would help others navigate this story. On the whole, however, I think a casual reader could find their way through her struggles successfully.

This ARC was provided by the publishe and NetGalley, the opinions expressed herein are strictly my own.

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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

This was a moving and wonderfully written memoir, definitely a must read.

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Surprisingly humorous and achingly honest, this should be a must read for anyone.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest GP unbiased review.

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