Series of Catastrophes and Miracles
Mary Elizabeth Williams

Book cover image

Narrated By: Mary Elizabeth Williams

Duration: 9 hours and 7 minutes

What to expect

A wry, witty account of what it is like to face death—and be restored to life

After being diagnosed in her early forties with metastatic melanoma—a “rapidly fatal” form of cancer—journalist and mother of two Mary Elizabeth Williams finds herself in a race against the clock. She takes a once-in-a-lifetime chance and joins a clinical trial for immunotherapy, a revolutionary drug regimen that trains the body to vanquish malignant cells. Astonishingly, her cancer disappears entirely in just a few weeks. But at the same time, her best friend embarks on a cancer journey of her own—with very different results.

Williams’ experiences as a patient and a medical test subject reveal with stark honesty what it takes to weather disease, the extraordinary new developments that are rewriting the rules of science—and the healing power of human connection.


Memoirs, Biography: general, Gender studies: women and girls, Coping with cancer

Listen to a sample

“Devastating and wise, clear-eyed and funny…This is a book for all the survivors.”

Jennifer Weiner, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“Astonishing and inspiring…When you laugh and cry at the exact same time, you know you are reading an amazing survival story.”

Piper Kerman, New York Times bestselling author

A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles shattered me. In the best possible way. One minute I’d be bawling, the next unable to stop laughing. Mary Elizabeth Williams is the funniest, raunchiest, smartest, heart-fillediest, science geekiest, and most genuine guide not only into the sh*t-out-of-luck cancer netherworld—but also into the unvarnished reality of marriage, motherhood, and family. I’d call her a warrior, but she’d hate me for that. So I’ll simply say this: f*ck cancer and buy this book.”

Deborah Copaken Kogen, New York Times bestselling author

“Mary Elizabeth Williams understands what it means to straddle life and death and the story she brings back is harrowing, hilarious, enlightening, and, above all, touched with the kind of grace the comes from having stared mortality right in the eye.”

Gayle Forman, New York Times bestselling author

“Snarky, funny, frequently off-color, Williams is a gifted writer who turns the greatest crisis of her life into an engaging story that reads almost like a novel.”

Library Journal (starred review)

“[Williams] eloquently and generously shares her story and her emotions in this remarkably illuminating account.”

Booklist (starred review)

“Who would have thought a book about being diagnosed with stage four melanoma could be exhilarating and entertaining?…[With] a narrative rich in detail, personalities, and New York scenes, she will ease the burdens of those immediately affected and inform others of progress in cancer research.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Writer Mary Elizabeth Williams is reflective and rueful in her performance of her memoir about her journey through Stage IV melanoma…Williams is bare in her reading and writing. Her conversations with friends and family members also undergoing cancer treatment particularly shine with love, humor, and candor.”


“In writing a book not just about her own cancer but about the vexing history and science of cancer itself, Mary Elizabeth Williams has given us both a page-turning personal story and deeply informed look at a disease that fascinates even as it terrifies.”

Meghan Daum, author of The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion

“I so admire Mary Elizabeth Williams’s gaze and candor, but perhaps most of all her humor, which keeps us great company in this touching book.”

Jami Attenberg, author of Saint Mazie

“This isn’t simply a book about cancer. It’s about the powerful connections that emerge in crisis, the discovery of our own carrying capacity for grief and compassion, and the marvel of resilience and stubborn mystery that is the human body. Mary Elizabeth Williams offers an important lesson in cutting-edge medicine, but also how to endure the worst days of your life while remaining tough, tender, and funny as hell.”

Sarah Hepola, author of Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget

“Mary Elizabeth Williams is an author you’ll want to seek out and befriend once you’ve finished her book. She bares so much of her soul on the page—her joys, her fears, her suffering—we can’t help but fall in love with her. This is as real as it gets.”