A moving tribute to the evergreen lessons of the heart.

THE BEST OF US

A MEMOIR

An acclaimed novelist recounts how a brief late-life marriage taught her the meaning of partnership.

Maynard (Under the Influence, 2016, etc.) was a successful single woman in her late 50s who was “done with marriage” when she met Jim, a divorced San Francisco lawyer, on Match.com. Fit and handsome, Jim looked like he was “probably a Republican.” But from their first open-hearted conversation, Maynard knew he was different. Still, caution ruled her actions. She had been independent and casually dating for more than 20 years and “wasn’t sure I should try love anymore.” However, the more time she spent with Jim, who accepted and loved the foibles other men had not, the more she realized that he was her “long-awaited sweetheart.” He was the brave and loving “guard dog” who could give her the “big love” she had always wanted but never found. For the next year, they lived in a state of perpetual bliss. Nothing—not even past romantic and personal failures and family tensions—seemed to cast a shadow on their happiness. They married less than a year after they met and bought a beautiful home together, where they envisioned a future that included visits from grandchildren and harvesting olives from trees they would plant. Then, a year after they wed, doctors diagnosed Jim with pancreatic cancer. For the next 19 months, they embarked on a roller-coaster ride that took them from the pinnacle of hope to the depths of despair and finally to painful acceptance of Jim’s inevitable demise. Told through loving, minutely remembered details that celebrate a once-in-a-lifetime love, the narrative, which only occasionally descends into overly sappy territory (“tourists in the country of love”), immerses readers in a story that, even at its darkest, strives to find meaning in calamity, heartbreak, and loss.

A moving tribute to the evergreen lessons of the heart.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63557-034-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

Did you like this book?

A potent depiction of grief, but also a book lacking the originality and acerbic prose that distinguished Didion’s earlier...

  • National Book Award Winner

  • National Book Critics Circle Finalist

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING

A moving record of Didion’s effort to survive the death of her husband and the near-fatal illness of her only daughter.

In late December 2003, Didion (Where I Was From, 2003, etc.) saw her daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne, hospitalized with a severe case of pneumonia, the lingering effects of which would threaten the young woman’s life for several months to come. As her daughter struggled in a New York ICU, Didion’s husband, John Gregory Dunne, suffered a massive heart attack and died on the night of December 30, 2003. For 40 years, Didion and Dunne shared their lives and work in a marriage of remarkable intimacy and endurance. In the wake of Dunne’s death, Didion found herself unable to accept her loss. By “magical thinking,” Didion refers to the ruses of self-deception through which the bereaved seek to shield themselves from grief—being unwilling, for example, to donate a dead husband’s clothes because of the tacit awareness that it would mean acknowledging his final departure. As a poignant and ultimately doomed effort to deny reality through fiction, that magical thinking has much in common with the delusions Didion has chronicled in her several previous collections of essays. But perhaps because it is a work of such intense personal emotion, this memoir lacks the mordant bite of her earlier work. In the classics Slouching Toward Bethlehem (1968) and The White Album (1979), Didion linked her personal anxieties to her withering dissection of a misguided culture prey to its own self-gratifying fantasies. This latest work concentrates almost entirely on the author’s personal suffering and confusion—even her husband and daughter make but fleeting appearances—without connecting them to the larger public delusions that have been her special terrain.

A potent depiction of grief, but also a book lacking the originality and acerbic prose that distinguished Didion’s earlier writing.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-4314-X

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

Did you like this book?

more