The truth is my husband is dying, and we are lonely together. There is the disease and the person, and though I am living with both, one has robbed me of the other. He is devoted to something else. It is in some ways similar, I imagine, to an affair, only in an affair I could pack my bags and storm out, slam the door shut, clearly wronged. There’d be some satisfaction in that. This is a secret he won’t talk to me about, and I am not allowed to resent it. When he looks at me he sees his disease. I am managing it, too closely connected to it for intimacy. I reflect it, and I suspect this angers him. After a point, the cancer, the thing we both hate, is the only thing that we share. (p.158)
I borrowed What Remains, a memoir by Carole Radziwill, from my friend Petra last weekend. I didn’t know what it was about—barely glancing at the blurb—I knew only that it looked like a good book to lug around: trade paperback, short of 300 pages. When I finally did look at the blurb, I was afraid it would be one of those vanity memoirs by some golden girl. Or worse, some memoir that capitalizes on grief and celebrity recall—Radziwill recounts, as the subtitle puts it, her love for her dying husband (a long struggle with cancer), her friendship with an illustrious couple (John F. Kennedy, Jr. and Carolyn Bessette), and the obscure workings of fate.
But. This book caught me off-guard. I’d opened it idly after lunch, and then found myself, dazed, closing it hours later. Radziwill has written a memoir that shakes you and—
+ + + + +
This post ends here, this post sharing my thoughts on the book. I’ve tried to plod forward, to try to tell whoever’s out there listening what I felt about Radziwill’s memoir. I tried just transcribing the scribbles I made on my journal, but they were just too disjointed, too personal.
Death and cancer—sometimes entwined, sometimes by themselves—have been too relevant in my life the past couple of months, and this book brought that to home. Framed it, and gave it a different context—but the similarities reverberated.
It’s a wonderful book, and it broke my heart. This is what I’d really wanted to say, and I can’t find it in me to elaborate. So, well, yes.