When a memoir brings me to tears I know it is something special. Love and loss, parenting and family, alcoholism and cancer…author Gabi Coatsworth has experienced it all and she shares her blessings and curses of what life has brought with honesty, clarity and humor in her new book, Love’s Journey Home.
At 25, and a single mom, Gabi knew she found the man of her destiny. Although Jay was married and lived in a different country when they met, they ultimately managed to find each other and had a rollercoaster life together that spanned decades. Alcohol tore them apart and cancer brought them back together but over the years Gabi and Jay created a home with family, exercised forgiveness and shared a special bond right up until the end.
In Love’s Journey Home, Gabi shares her fears and emotions, and sheds some light on the challenges of being a caregiver for a loved one. Although there is deep sadness in her story, there is so much beauty in a once in a lifetime love connection and the unconditional devotion she had the privilege to experience. I highly recommend this memoir!
Author Q & A
Q: You bared your soul in Love’s Journey Home – with a full spectrum of emotions from joy to sorrow. How long did it take you to write this memoir and did you begin while Jay was alive?
A: I’ve always kept a journal, and when Jay was sick, I found it a huge relief to be able to write down all my feelings, since I found it difficult to share them with people in person without feeling vulnerable. I needed to stay strong for him. And I didn’t want to forget anything. I started writing soon after he died, and it took me five years before I had a manuscript good enough to publish, and another year before I started sending it out to publishers.
Q: How did you organize your thoughts in order to write the book – did you do an outline based on when things happened chronologically? Did you list certain points you wanted to include? Did you find it painful to relive your life and relationship during the writing process or did it help you make sense of all you experienced?
A: I had no organized way of writing. I started with scenes and events that stood out in my mind – and realized pretty soon that I’d have to date them, or I’d get completely muddled. After I’d written about 30,000 words, I put them into chronological order, and started filling in the gaps.
I almost gave up writing at one point – I found it too painful and I worried about how people would react. My critique partners told me to write the book as though no one would read it, and that got me going again.
Q: You had many crucial decisions to make throughout your life, regarding Jay, your children, your sister’s children, your home, your career…looking back, would you have done anything differently and do you have any regrets?
A: I’ve thought about this so often. Most of my life-changing decisions were about saying “yes” to something new and potentially scary. I find it impossible to imagine who I would be if I’d never met Jay, never come to work in Chicago, never married him. I try to live so I don’t have regrets, so most of the ones I have are minor—there’s no point in wishing for something different in the past. I’m pretty happy these days. My history is what got me here.
Q: Do you think you would have fallen back in love with Jay had he not gotten sick?
A: Such a hard question. If he had given up drinking for good, and we could have learned to compromise a bit more, I think I might. In a way, his getting sick was a gift to us both.
Q: When people are ill, in general do you think the people closest to them paint a rosier picture of the past relationship as time goes on – forgiving them for any flaws?
A: I try to be a forgiving kind of person, and I hope the memoir reflects that. To understand everything is to forgive everything, goes the French saying. Writing the book helped me understand more about us both and our relationship.
Q: Did your children have opportunity to read your memoir yet and what did they think?
A: My daughter has been the first of my children to read it, and to my surprise, she loved it! I wasn’t sure she would, because her teenage years were tempestuous, but she’s urging her friends to buy it, so I know her enthusiasm is genuine.
Q: I was born and raised in CT, and I settled back there after college and raised my family there. There is no question CT is my home, where my roots are, where I am comfortable and where I belong. You moved across the country, had to choose where to live, raise your children on your own and make friends. Where do you feel most at home today and how did you go about finding your current community?
A: I live on a small street in the beach are of Fairfield, Connecticut, and three of my children live not far away, with their children, which is wonderful. I also have a wonderful community of writers, and live in a great neighborhood. My neighbors are planning a party for my book launch (one of several events we have every year, pandemic permitting). My writers’ community came about when our local Barnes and Noble asked me if I could think of some event they could offer writers, so I started the Writers Rendezvous several years ago. I now run an open mic and a weekly write-in as well, (all on Zoom during the pandemic) and have found my writer friends incredibly encouraging about my publishing journey.
Q: Your love for Jay and his for you was undeniable, but it seemed like, due to the way your relationship got started, there were big challenges for you when it came to feeling accepted. Making friends as a couple, dealing with all the children, arguing over alcohol….how did you remain confident and self assured, did you feel insecure, and how do you feel today?
A: As a younger woman I found most of my self-confidence and value in my work, but found it much harder to feel confident in my private life. Jay was always supportive of my career, so I knew I was on safe ground there. But I kept second-guessing myself as problems arose with my children, and our relationship. It took years before I could finally accept that what I needed was as important as other people’s needs, and to finally speak up.
Q: When we are faced with a medical issue, many of us become experts in the diagnosis and treatments. It seemed like your relationship was headed in a different direction but after you learned what he was facing you immersed yourself in Jay’s care and were supportive until the end. Were the children appreciative of your dedication, and looking back, would you have done anything differently?
A: Our children were grateful that I’d come back to nurse Jay. None of us wanted to think of him dealing with this alone. I can’t think of anything I would have done differently—I knew this was my final chance to make things good between us.
Q: Being a caregiver for someone you love can create a sense of purpose that can feel all consuming and can create co-dependencies. How did you feel after Jay passed away and did writing this memoir take the place of caring for your husband as part of the mourning process?
A: As many caregivers will tell you, exhaustion is one of the primary feelings immediately after someone you’ve been caring for dies. I’m a private person, so sharing my grief with others was difficult. I found writing the memoir served two purposes—it helped me make sense of my life with Jay, and in doing so, to write a tribute to him, which I hope I’ve done.
Q: What is next for you – in love and writing?
A: I’m writing the second novel in a series I hope will be published soon. The first novel came about because friends kept asking when I would start dating again. The main character is in the same boat, and very reluctant, until the ghost of her dead husband shows up in her kitchen, determined to help. Not sure I’ve answered your question—but I guess all writers put a little of themselves into their fiction!
Q: What have you read lately that you recommend?
A: I’ve just finished the audiobook of Mr. Loverman, by Bernadine Evaristo, a British-Nigerian writer. I’ve been making more of an effort to read beyond my traditional favorites, and it’s been very rewarding. The book is about an Antiguan man who’s been married for fifty years to his wife, but who throughout has been in love with his teenage sweetheart, another man. It overturns a number of stereotypes and is read with heart and verve by two narrators.
Q: Can you tell us about your writing group and how we can keep up with all you are doing?
A: I’m always happy to connect with readers, and they can reach me via https://linktr.ee/gabicoatsworth
About the Author
Gabi Coatsworth was born in Britain and work brought her to America. Love was why she stayed. She’s an award-winning writer and lives in Connecticut in a cottage that’s American on the outside, and English inside. If she’s not writing or traveling, she’ll be in her flower garden, wondering whether to weed, and holding a cup of her preferred beverage, strong English tea. Love’s Journey Home is her first book, and she’d love to connect with you through her website and her social media.