In her debut, Mansfield recounts her personal and spiritual evolutions following her beloved husband’s terminal cancer diagnosis. Divided into before and after sections, the book details both the painful months leading up to his death and the years of mourning and emotional exploration that followed. The first half will be familiar to anyone who has been involved with the treatment of a long-term illness, from the indignities of hospitals to the search for moments of joy amid bleak circumstances. In these early chapters, Mansfield’s story often seems to lack direction, focusing on medical minutiae at the expense of narrative momentum and sometimes relying on clichéd language, as when the author refers to herself as “a lioness protecting her cub.” In the after section, however, the book builds into something far more original and exciting, offering readers a bold exploration of loss, grief and unexpected consequences. Drawing on the teachings of Buddhism, Jungian psychology, mythology and other spiritual resources, Mansfield thoughtfully crafts practices and rituals to help her and her loved ones cope with her husband’s death—an ongoing attempt to reconcile the joy of life with the pain of death. Her descriptions of her bereavement and slow recovery are honest and moving, rendered in subtly poetic language; at one point, she describes a group of dolphins as “luminous revelations leaping from the great unconscious sea.” What’s more, Mansfield’s perspective on her husband’s death is refreshingly curious and unflinching. She bravely allows for the possibility that losing him may have opened doors to opportunities she otherwise would not have had. These sharp insights alongside specific details of practical coping mechanisms make her account an instructive guidebook for readers confronting their own losses. Those interested in the natural world—and city folk yearning for a taste of country life—will also appreciate the vivid descriptions of her rural New York homestead and its central role in her healing process.
Deeply spiritual without being preachy, a comforting guide to mourning for readers of any stripe.