BANGED-UP HEART by Shirley Melis


Dancing With Love and Loss
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A woman recounts the painful loss of two husbands to illness.

Debut author Melis’ husband of nearly 28 years, Joe, died of lung cancer, and shortly thereafter Melis’ father passed away as well. Stunned by grief, she joined a support group and sought solace in the counsel of a therapist. About two years later, she re-entered the world of dating, but her first foray was disastrous—Paul Caponigro was a peculiar combination of bland and coarse. But then she began to see John—a brilliant scientist deeply interested in wine and photography—and their relationship developed with surprising speed. John suffered from a rare form of cancer—Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia—but he’d managed it for nearly two decades and seemed robustly healthy and optimistic about a long future together. Although initially unsure of her feelings for John, Melis grew deeply close to him and finally asked him to marry her after only five months; he enthusiastically accepted. The author retired to free up time to work on her writing and to travel with her new husband—she describes their trips to Africa and France and their plans to visit the Galápagos Islands together. But John discovered bumps on his head that turned out to be tumors, and after surgery and a terrifying brush with death, he found his cancer to be ungovernable. Toward the very end, he contemplated a double suicide pact with Melis, a proposal she seemed to seriously entertain. She found an astonishingly resilient will to live, though, and rebounded yet again following John’s death. Melis’ stirring story is beautifully told, both philosophically reflective and emotionally poignant: “Joe had been like a symphony—strings, brass, wind, and percussion—largely agreeable, occasionally discordant, and always provocative. We had shared so much, and through it all, Joe had always been there for me. Without warning, the symphony had stopped, and the resulting silence was deafening. I had felt bereft.” Her account is also remarkably candid: she openly discusses her infidelity during her first marriage and sexual experimentation in her second. Despite the heartbreaking losses she endured, she manages to produce a life-affirming memoir detailing personal triumph. 

A sad but inspiring tale of love and mourning. 

Pub Date: Feb. 14th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-938288-70-8
Page count: 300pp
Publisher: Terra Nova
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2017


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