In this debut memoir, a husband and wife explore the unexpected spiritual opportunities that follow a terminal cancer diagnosis.
In the time between co-author Ken Jones’ June 2009 melanoma diagnosis and his death nine months later, he and his wife, co-author Carol Jones, devoted themselves anew to spiritual study. Following the tenets of the Church of the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness, the couple sought to use Ken’s illness to enrich their own relationship and better understand their places within the divine scheme of things. This book is the story of that process told through a diverse compilation of texts, including Ken’s post-diagnosis blog posts, Carol’s personal reflections, assorted MSIA prayers, and missives from the couple’s friends, family, and advisers. A few sections even feature messages from Ken that Carol claims to have received via automatic writing. Carol and Ken’s religious community and beliefs form the narrative’s backbone, which may be confusing to readers unfamiliar with MSIA. References to “the Light of Christ” and “the Mystical Traveler” come early and often, accompanied by little context for the uninitiated. Much of the couple’s story, however, proves relatable even to those who don’t share their spiritual perspective. Ken’s descriptions of finding joy in the mundane as his physical condition worsens may comfort and inspire those facing losses of their own, while Carol’s examination of their imperfect marriage and fraught road to compassionate love lend the story a grounded humanity. These strengths are diminished, however, by an overall lack of narrative focus. Many chapters contain superfluous personal details, reprinted blog comments, or hints at inside jokes that will mean little to anyone who did not know Ken personally. Carol also tends to make similar points multiple times with only slight variations in language; at times, the book reads more like an unedited journal than a structured story. Still, Carol and Ken’s unflinching look at the often sanitized subject of death is refreshing, and interested readers will gain a deeper understanding of what Carol calls “the real treasure of consciously leaving this world.”
Often meandering but emotionally rich nonetheless.