Hope"" was writer Richard Meryman's wife of 20-odd years: funny, a talented artist, and chipper even in the throes of a two-year bout with cancer. Was the black mole on her back anything to be concerned about? And the two lumps under her armpit? Once the trouble was diagnosed as multiple myeloma, with all traces removed (including a spot on her spleen), the swings from high to low were inevitable: one minute she seemed cured, the next a tumor appeared somewhere to reaffirm the myeloma's supremacy. Meryman does a better-than-average job of projecting the agonies and ambiguities: Hope's progressively debilitating illness leaves him wanting an uncomplicated relationship with a well woman, he can't bring himself to tell their two little daughters, he worries whether he will be an adequate single parent--all the while genuinely loving Hope and wracked by her gradual destruction. When Hope does pass away, three days before Christmas 1975, all the goodbyes have not been said; and Meryman, again, does an excellent job of detailing the mourning/recovery process, both for himself and for the gifts: one mourns openly and clings to him, the other withdraws and feels abandoned. It's a long, slow combination of grief and laughter that eventually enables the letting-go; and Meryman is now prepared to get married again (this time to one of Hope's friends, a comforting presence during the illness and mourning). Cancer memoirs are not exactly new these days, but this proves that they are still the stuff of which affecting tales can be made. It will speak especially to spouses in a similar position.