In this debut memoir, the wife of a wealthy entrepreneur cares for him after his debilitating stroke and reflects with pride on a life of service.
Koll opens her remembrance with the story of her brother, Don Robinson’s courting actress Dolores Hart, who abruptly canceled her engagement to Robinson in 1963 to join a monastery. Robinson never married, Koll says, but he maintained a platonic friendship with Hart until his death. With this star-studded beginning, readers may expect more celebrities, and there are a few: One of Koll’s childhood friends was Lucie Arnaz, for instance, and she later dated Mark Harmon. However, the author mainly tells of overcoming challenges, such as her father’s drinking problem, her mother’s death from cancer, and a divorce from her first husband. The heart of the book is devoted to her second marriage to the Los Angeles real estate developer and philanthropist Don Koll. Their first date was at a 1997 White House reception. There are accounts of Beverly Hills dinners, vacations in St. Tropez, and even an encounter with a car thief in France. In 2005, however, Don had a stroke, which changed Koll’s life forever. She became his caregiver, helping him through daily tasks of living until his death in 2011—the same year that her brother died. In this memoir, Koll offers cleareyed memories of hospitals, health care, and hope. The subject matter may remind some readers of The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion’s 2005 account of coping with her husband’s death while tending to her sick daughter. Koll isn’t as contemplative as Didion is, but she does know how to make the people in her memories feel real to readers. Although the celebrity cameos sometimes feel gratuitous, the author’s attitude is consistently uplifting. She tells of working tirelessly to improve Don’s and her own quality of life; at one point, she asked his doctor if there might be a way for the couple to have “one more roll in the hay.” “You never give up,” his doctor told her later—a perfect summary of this clever, comforting memoir.
An engaging, warts-and-all telling of the ups and downs of a full-time caregiver.