TO LOVE WHAT IS by Alix Kates Shulman


A Marriage Transformed
Email this review


A gripping portrayal of how the lives of a wife and her husband were forever changed when the husband incurred permanent brain damage.

Feminist author Shulman (A Good Enough Daughter, 1999, etc.)—a fiercely independent woman whose marriage was based on autonomy and freedom and for whom privacy and time for her writing were paramount—was suddenly deprived of both when her husband Scott’s traumatic brain injury left him dependent and demented, yet still loving and lovable. Within the details of the accident and the aftermath—a ten-foot fall in the middle of the night on a small island off the coast of Maine, his rescue, his subsequent time in hospitals and rehab and his return home—the author interweaves the story of their unusual romance. It began with a teenage crush in 1950, followed by a 34-year hiatus in which each married, had children and divorced (she twice). Their relationship resumed in 1984, and by the time of the accident they had been together for some 20 years. Her early misunderstanding of the doctors’ prognosis—she thought he would return to normal in one year—was gradually replaced by the stark realization that while physical improvements in strength and mobility were possible, his mental capacities, including his short-term memory, were gone. How she dealt with this shattering knowledge and managed his care, as well as how their relationship changed, comprise the core of this compelling love story. Although she rejoiced in his small triumphs and basked in his warmth and charm, the author includes the frightening episodes when he disappeared or became so hostile and violent that she called the police.

Totally engaging and surprisingly frank. For women concerned about facing a similar future, disturbing yet somehow reassuring.

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-374-27815-1
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2008


FictionMÉNAGE by Alix Kates Shulman
by Alix Kates Shulman
NonfictionA GOOD ENOUGH DAUGHTER by Alix Kates Shulman
by Alix Kates Shulman
NonfictionDRINKING THE RAIN by Alix Kates Shulman
by Alix Kates Shulman