The Best of Us by Joyce Maynard

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My Review:

I highly recommend reading The Best of Us , just make sure you have a box of tissues.  Joyce Maynard finds the love of her life in her 50s, many years after being divorced and raising her children as a single mother.  She and Jim, her new love, had a wonderful connection and were enjoying life to the fullest.  And then their future was shattered when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  She stood by him, provided hope and continued to look for treatments and solutions until the end.  Her love story is beautiful and devastating as she chronicles the time before she meets Jim, during their love affair and his battle with this devastating disease, and afterward when she must pick up the pieces.  She talks about the years being divorced and on her own, how she was looking for connection and to feel that unconditional love, when she decided to adopt two girls from Ethiopia.  Their relationships and interactions were not what she had expected, and after struggling to provide a good home and feel love from these girls, a little over a year later she chose to find them a different home and say goodbye.  Then she met Jim and love blossomed.  When he became ill she was his dedicated nurse and advocate.  Her commitment to Jim is admirable and heartfelt, and with writing that is emotional and passionate she shares her personal journey.

Joyce Maynard had been vilified in the media for giving up her adopted daughters and in her book she talks about their challenging family life which makes clear her reasons for placing the girls in a different family.   I am supportive of her decision and appreciate her honesty and candor as she revealed details about the difficulties of this heartbreak.  She is relentless with her unwavering support and love for Jim as he wins and loses small battles during the fight and ultimately loses the war to pancreatic cancer.  I admire her strength and courage as she stays by his side to fight for more days together.

Joyce Maynard has been through so many ups and downs in her life and she communicates her love, pain and everything in between through her life affirming experiences, written with great emotion and clarity in this beautiful memoir, The Best of Us.  I highly recommend it.

As Seen on Goodreads:

In 2011, when she was in her late fifties, beloved author and journalist Joyce Maynard met the first true partner she had ever known. Jim wore a rakish hat over a good head of hair; he asked real questions and gave real answers; he loved to see Joyce shine, both in and out of the spotlight; and he didn’t mind the mess she made in the kitchen. He was not the husband Joyce imagined, but he quickly became the partner she had always dreamed of.
Before they met, both had believed they were done with marriage, and even after they married, Joyce resolved that no one could alter her course of determined independence. Then, just after their one-year wedding anniversary, her new husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. During the nineteen months that followed, as they battled his illness together, she discovered for the first time what it really meant to be a couple–to be a true partner and to have one.

This is their story. Charting the course through their whirlwind romance, a marriage cut short by tragedy, and Joyce’s return to singleness on new terms, The Best of Us is a heart-wrenching, ultimately life-affirming reflection on coming to understand true love through the experience of great loss.

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photo credit: Catherine Sebastian

About the Author:

A native of New Hampshire, Joyce Maynard began publishing her stories in magazines when she was thirteen years old.  She first came to national attention with the publication of her New York Timescover story, “An Eighteen Year Old Looks Back on Life”, in 1972, when she was a freshman at Yale.

 

Since then, she has been a reporter and columnist for The New York Times, a syndicated newspaper columnist whose “Domestic Affairs” column appeared in over fifty papers nationwide, a regular contributor to NPR and national magazines including Vogue, The New York Times Magazine, and many more. She is a longtime performer with The Moth.

Maynard is the author of seventeen books, including the novel To Die For and the best-selling memoir, At Home in the World—translated into sixteen languages. Her novel, To Die For, was adapted for the screen by Buck Henry for a film directed by Gus Van Sant, in which Joyce can be seen in the role of Nicole Kidman’s lawyer. Her novel Labor Day was adapted and directed by Jason Reitman for a film starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, to whom Joyce offered instruction for making the pie that appeared in a crucial scene in the film.

The mother of three grown children, Maynard runs workshops in memoir at her home in Lafayette California. In 2002 she founded The Lake Atitlan Writing Workshop in San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala, where she hosts a weeklong workshop in personal storytelling every winter.

She is a fellow of The MacDowell Colony and Yaddo.

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