Monday, November 9, 2009

Wrapping up "Life's THAT Way"

So, it turns out that I was reading the title of this one wrong. I assumed it was a phrase to be said with a shoulder shrug - kind of a fatalistic view of things (that's the way things are; you can't change them). But in fact, the title should be said with the stress on the word "that". It is actually a direction, a command to move ahead.

Cynic that I am, I think I only used about dozen kleenex reading this book. Others will need many more. Jim Beaver is alternately serious, funny and emotional in this one-year journey which chronicles his wife's cancer diagnosis and death, and his personal grieving as he realizes he will be raising his very young daughter alone, and the bittersweet feelings he has of seeing her reach new milestones knowing that Cecily would have thrilled to share them.

The book is a series of e-mails Beaver started sending out to friends when Cecily was first diagnosed to let them know what was happening to her health, and how her treatments were going. The messages progress into reflections on life, death, love, and grieving and although he claims to hold back on some of his emotions and honest feelings, it certainly does not seem so to the reader.

When I embarked on this "year of" project I expected all the books I chose would be of the "shtick lit" genre - a term I just learned from Library Journal meaning "a stuntlike project undertaken for the purpose of writing about it" (see the review for Memoir: A History in the link above). A.J. Jacobs comes immediately to mind. It is also essentially what this blog is. But I discovered that some of the books recounted "accidental" years. There wasn't a plan, writing was done in hindsight. Joan Didion and Jon Katz are two that I think of here. In Beaver's case, there was no plan to send messages to friends for a year, but he stopped at the year anniversary - about 8 months after Cecily's death. The writing took place in "real time", as a "year of" project would, but the intention was not the same. He was reporting to friends and acquaintances, not writing a book. He points out in his last entry he is moving on "...from the procedure begun unwittingly (emphasis mine) a year ago...". So neither a project book, nor a hindsight book, a new sub-genre all together.

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