In her newest memoir, “The Best of Us”, Maynard chronicles her relationship with her second husband Jim, from their whirlwind romance to his pancreatic cancer diagnoses. What begins with a fairytale courtship for two people in their late fifties quickly morphs into their joint fight for Jim’s survival.
I’m always drawn to Maynard’s memoirs because of her fierce honesty. Similar to “At Home in the World,” we continue to see a woman unafraid to examine herself under the plainest of lights. She is willing to show the reader both the tender moment when she curls up in bed with her husband after his diagnoses to read their wedding vows to one another, and the moment that she posts on social media that she resents her husband for keeping her from the things she loves most, like writing. She does not shy away from discussing delicate topics, such as the rehoming of her adopted Nigerian children, just a year after she’s brought them home. She’s even-toned and candid about her decisions, speaks in frank terms of the backlash and threats she received as a result.
I admire the grace with which Maynard handles her struggle to come to terms with her husband’s terminal diagnoses and their collective fear. There are points in this story that are so honest and heartbreaking — a letter from her friend Deborah, asking “have you figured out ‘hope’ yet? And if so, would you mind sharing,” a quote from her friend Graf, “You are swimming now across this vast lake and you know now that only one of you will make it. What can you do but keep moving toward the shore?” And the most poignant, “If only,” I often said, “you could learn the lessons of cancer without having cancer.”
This is a wonderful story not only of illness and fear, but of love and loyalty.
Huge thanks to Net Galley, and to Bloomsbury publishing for my digital copy for a fair and honest review.