Stage- and screenwriter and performer Balbirer (Take Your Shirt Off and Cry: A Memoir of Near-Fame Experiences, 2009) interweaves the story of her marriage with that of her beloved dog.
When Ira, the author’s 11-year-old beagle, was diagnosed with kidney failure, her personal life was in shambles. She and her husband of 11 years, Sam, had not had sex “in several years” and were exploring everything from couples’ therapy to New Age “love seminars.” Ira had been their “wedding gift to each other at a time when our partnership was the perfect alignment of taste, sensibility, humor, and love.” Now their marriage, which had withstood Sam’s decision to leave a career in law, infertility, a complicated pregnancy, and moves between Los Angeles and New York, was fraught with resentment and acrimony on both sides. Sam wanted the author to assume greater responsibility for their wine bar/restaurant business so that he could pursue a career in music. Balbirer worried about putting money neither one of them had into a business that seemed risky and the temporary nature of the life they built together in Manhattan. Meanwhile, the author spent thousands of dollars trying to keep Ira alive. Then Balbirer discovered that Sam was having an affair but continued to cling to the hope that she could somehow manage to save her marriage. Her health suffered and she lost weight, but slowly, she realized that the nostalgia for her marriage was really nostalgia for a romantic ideal that “had never existed.” When Ira died just over a year after his diagnosis, the author had finally come to terms with the fact that surrender to the truth of her situation was not about “giving up…[but about] letting go of the illusions.” Though too heavily focused on the minutiae of Balbirer’s relationship and sometimes difficult to follow due to the shifting chronology, the narrative offers an intimate look at the difficulties of marriage and a heartfelt tribute to a beloved dog.
A flawed but well-intentioned, genuine memoir.