A slim but probing biography of grief and happiness.
In a follow-up to his debut memoir, Young Widower (2014), Evans (Creative Writing/Stanford Univ.) explores his next stages of life following the death of his wife, Katie. Married just three years at the time 30-year-old Katie was killed by a bear while walking in the woods near Bucharest, Romania, the author sketches the rippling wake of that experience, including finding new love and his resulting paroxysm of guilt mingled with grief. He felt afraid to own the right to renewed, even greater happiness than he’d found before. The title of the present account reflects the author’s moving existential—almost ethical—question posed now nine years out from Katie’s death: “Shouldn’t I still wish you hadn’t died?” Immediately after the fact, this thought wasn’t even a question, but less than a year after witnessing his wife’s traumatic end, it became a powerful dilemma for Evans when he found new love with longtime friend Cait, a woman he’d met in the Peace Corps at the same time he’d met Katie. While numerous memoirs about reckoning with the loss of a loved one demonstrate the perils of attempting to circumvent grief, Evans’ self-study proves equally instructive in negotiating guilt. The author examined survivor’s guilt in his debut. Here, as Evans tries to come to terms with his new relationship with Cait, which led to their marriage and the births of three sons, it seems he’s attempting to write himself into a place of forgiveness for having moved on. In a soliloquy to his young son, Evans clandestinely reveals, “I want you to know that I have been happy in my affection,” and later goes on to admit, “part of what I mean to describe here is not grief at all, I think, but forgetting.”
Evans’ poignant, authentically disjointed account offers candid insight into the baffling interplay of love, loss, and the balm of memory.