A recently widowed college professor looks back on her marriage and the death of her husband.
In 2015, Reid (Tillie Olsen, 2011, etc.) experienced “a loss that nearly destroyed my mind and life” when her husband, John Fischer, died after a four-month battle with a mysterious respiratory illness. She turned to writing about their marriage as a way of coping with her loss, and the result is worthy of comparison with classic memoirs of grief. The author, a professor of English, met Fischer on a visit to Louisiana State University in 1974, and they were married the following year. They were a devoted couple who shared a similar sense of humor and a passion for literature; Fischer was a leading scholar on the satirist Jonathan Swift. They would read the poems of Theocritus to their daughter and enjoy research assignments in England. The idyll ended after Fischer experienced spasms in his chest while shopping in January 2015. “Sat there until my lungs quit quivering,” he told her. Fischer’s death just four months later left the author “ravaged by guilt” and wrestling with a litany of things that she thinks she could have done to save him. But she found solace through writing the memoir and going on an African safari with her daughter, where their adventures “brought us close to nature, to each other, and to John’s spirit.” Throughout this book, Reid charts her spouse’s rapid physical decline with agonizing clarity—“John’s skin looked like a larger man’s hand-me-down bodysuit”—and she also makes convincing assertions that he was a victim of neglect by his doctors: “alarm bells should go off when doctors just keep offering the same hypotheses despite declining health,” she says. The author also points out that the best grief memoirs “provide both a powerful feel of the person lost and sharp insight into the writer herself.” Her own book passes that test with flying colors.
Reid vividly depicts both her husband’s sickness and her own feelings of loss and guilt in this memoir.