A lonely wife finds solace in friendship.
With her husband away on business for weeks at a time, the author’s wife, Elaine, a sensitive, creative musician and linguaphile given to compulsive letter writing, is overwhelmed by the task of raising their six children alone on a minimal budget. The stress eventually leads to alcoholism. Her frequent letters to Robert ache with frustration, and though she seldom complains outright, her missives are clearly a plea for help. As Elaine discovers that her husband cannot fulfill all of her emotional needs, she embarks on what becomes a 15-year friendship with the similarly sensitive Marla. It is through her correspondence with Marla that Elaine expresses her inner life, her concerns and insecurities. Here, Robert reprints many of the letters between his wife and Marla, interspersing his own journal entries. Writing after her death, the author lightly chastises himself for his inability to acknowledge the gravity of her situation. His attitude, though somewhat paternalistic, is still lovingly respectful of Elaine’s artistic gifts and strength of character. As the keeper of his wife’s collected correspondence, the author does little to edit for redundancy or import, instead letting her replays of daily frustrations mingle unchecked with the more essential moments of self-discovery. Through Elaine’s prolific epistolary life (in 1991 alone, she mailed 334 personal letters), readers receive an honest, raw demonstration of the limits of communication between husband and wife.
A testament to the need to be heard, and to the restorative power of friendship.