Rylander’s memoir follows her as she grieves and grows through her husband Jim’s illness and death.
Rylander’s story begins as she’s starting a rigorous trek up Mount Everest with a friend. Four years earlier, she’d begun hiking and climbing. It was a journey to discover herself apart from, but not at odds with, her husband. “I was learning to leave home,” she explains. “Separation, individuation, exploration, autonomy—the things I had never done as a young person—lured me like a drug.” Shortly into the Everest climb, the head Sherpa dies, casting a pall on the trip and starting Rylander’s premonitions of death. As the narrative progresses, Jim is diagnosed with large B-cell lymphoma. Readers feel the couple’s angst as the cancer encroaches on their individual and collective goals and plans; and yet, the sickness brings them closer to one other. Through the wash of chemo and transplants, readers see both husband and wife growing in their identities and their understanding of life and death. Independently, they conclude: “life has to be lived without being figured out ahead of time.” The book’s emotional themes of independence and companionship, loneliness and interdependence will resonate especially with married readers. Rylander’s inspiring spirit endures the desperation of trial and error and the raw practicalities of hospital visits, living arrangements and homeopathy in the fight for hope. Her lyrical love of mountains and nature adds imagery to a beautiful, thoughtful voice—the perfect balance of heartfelt and factual.
Branches beyond the reach of a typical cancer-widow memoir, achieving an inspiring depth of spirit.