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

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The book begins in Sri Lanka with the tsunami of 2004—a horror the author saw firsthand, and the aftermath of which he...

LIVES OTHER THAN MY OWN

The latest from French writer/filmmaker Carrère (My Life as a Russian Novel, 2010, etc.) is an awkward but intermittently touching hybrid of novel and autobiography.

The book begins in Sri Lanka with the tsunami of 2004—a horror the author saw firsthand, and the aftermath of which he describes powerfully. Carrère and his partner, Hélène, then return to Paris—and do so with a mutual devotion that's been renewed and deepened by all they've witnessed. Back in France, Hélène's sister Juliette, a magistrate and mother of three small daughters, has suffered a recurrence of the cancer that crippled her in adolescence. After her death, Carrère decides to write an oblique tribute and an investigation into the ravages of grief. He focuses first on Juliette's colleague and intimate friend Étienne, himself an amputee and survivor of childhood cancer, and a man in whose talkativeness and strength Carrère sees parallels to himself ("He liked to talk about himself. It's my way, he said, of talking to and about others, and he remarked astutely that it was my way, too”). Étienne is a perceptive, dignified person and a loyal, loving friend, and Carrère's portrait of him—including an unexpectedly fascinating foray into Étienne and Juliette's chief professional accomplishment, which was to tap the new European courts for help in overturning longtime French precedents that advantaged credit-card companies over small borrowers—is impressive. Less successful is Carrère's account of Juliette's widower, Patrice, an unworldly cartoonist whom he admires for his fortitude but seems to consider something of a simpleton. Now and again, especially in the Étienne sections, Carrère's meditations pay off in fresh, pungent insights, and his account of Juliette's last days and of the aftermath (especially for her daughters) is quietly harrowing.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9261-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011

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

  • National Book Award Winner

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

  • National Book Critics Circle 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

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