A Weepstakes contender about the ravages of cancer and how to come to an understanding of the deaths of loved ones.
It’s not Dr. (the psychologist kind) Anna Carroll’s first experience with death, and certainly not with cancer, either, but it’s up there among the most painful of events for her when her friend ever since girlhood, Beth O’Neill (lawyer), dies of breast cancer, leaving two girls and husband behind. Even though the Florida-dwelling Anna has her own call-in-for-advice radio show and is a well-known author of books about how to cope (the first entitled You Are Your Own Worst Enemy, the second the ripsnorting Get a Grip! Quit Whining, and Take Charge of Your Life), she’s nevertheless truly bummed by Beth’s loss of her 18-month struggle with the disease. As Anna says in another context, she needs “time alone to recharge and recenter,” so off she goes for a solo November weekend in the empty house of friends (he a heart doctor, she a designer), where she’ll hope to pull herself together. There, she meets a stranger, a man with “deep soulful eyes,” whose name she never thinks to ask (pardon me?), to whom she spills out the entire story of her life, who rides around on a bicycle and has a habit of appearing and disappearing like, well, you know, a spirit or something. This soulful person’s advice to Anna, as a means of healing her pain over Beth’s death, is to write to the dead woman, which Anna does, and soon enough, yes, there’s Beth, in the room, dead, but just as she’d been in life, talking reassuringly to the weeping Anna. There’ll be more tears before the weekend is over, as the nameless man gains a name, bears to Anna tidings not of joy but of a most, most deep bittersweetness, allowing her at last to get a grip and head back to Florida.