Pub Date: October 10, 2023

Author: Kathleen Watt

In lyrical prose, with musical allusions, clinical references, and a bit of comic relief, Rearranged follows Kathleen Watt’s plunge from the operatic stage into the netherworld of hospital life—its indigenous creatures, its peculiar language, its signposts of the mysterious human condition—through the devastation of cancer, and out the other side. Kathleen was a New York opera singer at mid-career, with a steady, lucrative chorus job at the Metropolitan Opera and solo gigs elsewhere, anticipating her best year ever. Instead, a vicious bone cancer blew her plans to smithereens, along with her face. She had to let everything go. Bit by bit, through a brutal alchemy of lethal toxins, titanium screws, and infinite kindness, she discovered new arrangements for old pieces, in a life catastrophically transposed. Not only a heart-wrenching medical odyssey, but an ultimately joyous personal journey of transformation.  


“Watt is a sharply descriptive writer who is unafraid to address the horror of her treatment… Unapologetically frank, the author also has a wry, sometimes self-effacing sense of humor that brings levity to a distressing subject. … The result is a finely textured and courageous literary memoir that is inspirational and, at times, darkly amusing.”

Kirkus Reviews


“A gripping portrayal of the devastation cancer can spread in one’s health, relationships, and dreams, and Watt’s sweeping storytelling will transport readers to each procedure and hospital room alongside her. She provides insights into the medical torment involved with her treatment, such as being comatose and experiencing ICU psychosis, and ultimately gifts readers with front row seats to her most triumphant performance to date—surviving cancer and having the strength and courage to relive the harrowing journey within the pages of this story. The end result is both heart-breaking and uplifting and will touch the heart of any readers affected by a life-altering illness.” —Publisher’s Weekly


“Kathleen Watt’s narrative memoir reveals her indomitable humanity, indefatigable spirit, and remarkable endurance. She has written with transparency, bravery, honesty, and fairness. The rhythm, cadence and artistry of her words embodies her forever-musicianship, and she has deployed her gifted voice in a tour-de-force written performance. Patients, health care professionals and every-day folk alike will benefit greatly from her lessons imparted and her wisdom shared.”

—Douglas Brandoff, MD, FAAHPM, Attending Physician, Palliative Care Clinic, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Alumnus, Juilliard Pre-College Division, cello


“Kathleen’s account of her experience with Osteogenic Sarcoma … is a very intimate portrayal… Anyone going through something like this will absolutely benefit from reading this beautifully written book.”

 —Peter D. Costantino, MD, FACS, Brain and Spine Surgery of New York


“What does it mean to be de-faced: to have your neck, throat, nose, eye sockets, eyelids, cheeks, tongue, and teeth disfigured? A harrowing account of the toll taken by treatments of osteogenic sarcoma—told by a woman who brings the same grit to the ordeal that she exhibited in becoming a chorister in the Metropolitan Opera Company.” 

—Susan Gubar, Professor Emerita at Indiana University, author of Debulked, and “Living with Cancer” series for the New York Times online


“Kathleen Watt has turned her harrowing experience, as an opera singer diagnosed with facial bone cancer, into a story that is fresh, gripping, and also remarkably entertaining. Her voice—smart, funny, and disarmingly forthright—makes this book shine…”

—Helen Fremont, award-winning author of national bestsellers The Escape Artist and After Long Silence


“Kathleen Watt has written a brave and honest memoir about her battle with facial cancer, [which] upended her career as an opera singer and her marriage, and required adapting to life with a permanent disfigurement. [A] fierce examination of our culture’s… obsession with female beauty and the perils of our convoluted healthcare system… [Y]ou’ll also find moments of surprising lightness and humor, and a willingness to stay open to the possibility of a new version of joy.”

—Julie Metz, author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Perfection, and Eva and Eve