Book Review by Zinta Aistars
Paperback: 218 pages
Publisher: F.E.I., 2008
Publisher: F.E.I., 2008
Sirens scream, and Valerie watches helplessly as her husband, Bill, is swept away from their home by emergency medical technicians to the hospital, where she finds out that he has experienced a brain aneurysm. This is Valerie's story of that mad ride that begins with an ambulance, dragging them suddenly out of their quite blissful everyday.
No matter that these two have been married well over three decades; they are still, indeed, more in love than ever. Best friends, lovers, business partners. Along with their shared romance, their bond is much strengthened by their mutual faith, and this is the theme running through the entire account.
And so, as Bill sinks into a comma, Val remains by his side, striving to keep her faith strong - in God and in her husband. Her family gathers around her, her adult children, her sister, and her friends. Val shares here her personal story of the difficult and seemingly endless waiting, the frustration of dealing with hospitalization and not always attentive (or even competent) staff, the many faces that quite randomly seem to float in and out of one's life when dealing with a medical crisis. Some bring relief, others bring another test to be endured.
It is an honest, if not always literary account (like all but the rarest of self-published books, this one, too, cries out for an editor's defining touch)of an enduring love and an equally enduring faith. Most all of us have been through one or another experience of having a loved one hospitalized and of dealing with medical emergencies, and so we find ourselves caring for Valerie's emotional ride and occasional frustrations, because in some way we've all been there. We cheer with her when progress is made, feel her sadness when there is a regression again. We relate: the uncomfortable nights by a loved one's bedside, the anxious dealing with ever changing shifts of caregivers, the rollercoaster ride of rising hopes and deflating disappointments, the blessing of a much needed night of sleep after the first hot shower in several days. It is what we do for those we love. We feel, too, for Val as her husband wakes and is not quite what he used to be, because by then - Val has become a friend.
Recovery is a slow and clumsy process. Those closest to us become people we can hardly recognize. But again and again, just when Val's strength begins to fade, she is blessed by some human angel, some parting of the waves of traffic to get her to the hospital on time, some random kindness of a stranger, that restores her once again.
I Must Be in Heaven is the kind of story you share over a pot of coffee with a favorite neighbor or a good friend. Reading it is that kind of encounter: not so much a great book, but a great chat with someone who has become another warm and very human heart you're glad to have known for a while. There are many satisfying morals to this true story, and we can close the cover when the story is done, happy there are such good marriages in the world, still.
~Zinta Aistars for The Smoking Poet, Fall 2008