A wife’s tale of loss and recovery.
In June 2000, diagnosed with an extremely rare appendix cancer, Lea’s husband chose to undergo an experimental surgery to excise cancerous growths filling his abdomen, followed by several days of hot chemotherapy. Post-surgery complications resulted in his suffering an “anoxic insult,” loss of oxygen to the brain. After the siege to his body, he emerged weak, disoriented, and unable to remember anything. In her candid, unsentimental debut memoir, Lea tells the story of two survivors—her husband, Richard, and herself—as they have confronted changes in their identity, relationship, and family as a result of his trauma. She interweaves a chronicle of Richard’s medical challenges with her account of a 23-year marriage that was often infused with anger: Richard’s erupted in violent attacks on their young son, Lea’s in rebellion against responsibilities as a wife and mother. Yearning to be wild, she turned to drink, often blacking out, sometimes for minutes; “other times, most of a night would go by and I wouldn’t know what had happened.” She was an alcoholic for years before she finally went to Alcoholics Anonymous; by the time of Richard’s operation, the marriage had improved. As Richard’s caregiver, though, anger surfaced again: she admits that she does not like “leaving the role of his lover to take on what feels like becoming his nurse, teacher, and mother.” But she is “determined to become the fiercest, most virtuous caregiver anyone has ever seen.” Their daughter accused Lea of controlling Richard’s story by publishing her version, and sometimes her assertions are troubling: Lea writes, for example, that “Richard isn’t experiencing grief for a lost self” because he is “helpless to find that former being.” But readers will get little sense of what Richard truly feels, and grief seems a distinct possibility.
A forthright memoir that narrates an engrossing journey of self-discovery and fierce devotion.