March 18, 2002 12:00 PM

By Brendan Halpin

Not surprisingly, books about breast cancer don’t spend much time on the plight of the sufferer’s husband. So when his wife, Kirsten, was diagnosed at age 32, Halpin started writing his own book. He is too honest to pretend he found any real answers, but as one man’s journal of just how tough a time this can be, Worried Man is traumatic, touching and shockingly funny. Kirsten (who is now in remission) tells Halpin that if she dies, he can never remarry. “I’ll haunt you,” she promises. So Halpin shrewdly negotiates for the right to “a string of meaningless affairs with 24-year-olds.” Despite such irreverent moments, he says, “I sure don’t feel heroic…. Or even brave. People will tell me this kind of stuff a lot, and I know they mean well, but I just think, well, what are my options here?”

Halpin takes solace in country music and zombie movies, rejecting the standard Oprah-rific inspirational pieties. His insights can be candid and often obscene, like the disease itself; how else could a man react when his young wife may be dying and “Keith Richards is walking around relatively healthy and pushing sixty”? (Villard, $21.95)

Bottom Line: Man at his best

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