AFTERIMAGE by Carla Malden


A Brokenhearted Memoir of a Charmed Life
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A searing account of how the author coped with her husband’s year-long struggle with colon cancer and his untimely death.

Screenwriter Malden—daughter of actor Karl Malden, with whom she wrote the memoir When Do I Start? (1997)—had been together with screenwriter Laurence Starkman from the time they were high-school students in the late 1960s. Certainly by Hollywood standards, their partnership had proven to be remarkable, and not just for its longevity, but for their deep connection. “We got each other in a way that we knew no one else ever would or could. Soul mates, they call it.” So when Starkman was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2006, Malden was devastated. The good—some would say “charmed”—life she had been leading with her beloved “best friend” had now turned permanently upside down. Without mincing words, the author chronicles her harsh awakening into the very human world of suffering. The day of Starkman's diagnosis, she unwillingly entered a “foreign land” in which “I [did] not speak the language.” Literacy was forced upon her through radical immersion in her husband’s unexpected health crisis. Bewildered, angry and frightened, she struggled to adjust to the demands of his metastasizing cancer, which included endless rounds of hospital visits, blood tests and chemotherapy and a fruitless search for balance and normalcy. Malden’s experiences with illness and the eventual bereavement it brought offered no glimpses into higher spiritual truths or God. For her, a universe in which cancer could strike down her vibrant husband was “random…capricious and nihilistic.” Emotionally raw from start to finish, the story makes for admittedly difficult reading. What saves it from sinking into pure melodrama are its fleeting moments of humor and the fact that it also celebrates a rare and profound love that transcended death.

A brutally candid memoir of the “all-consuming and profoundly uncomplicated” power of grief.

Pub Date: May 3rd, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7627-6382-5
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Skirt! Books/Globe Pequot
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2011