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In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss


In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss

Amy Bloom’s memoir, IN LOVE, is the most unsettling and most beautiful book I’ve ever read about loss. It is neither “watching a loved one suffer a slow death” nor “completely taken aback by a sudden death”; instead, it is a “we chose this” story. Bloom suffered through the death of her second husband, Brian, when he chose to go to Switzerland and undergo a legally assisted suicide due to his encroaching and rapidly worsening Alzheimer’s. By his side and managing most details, Bloom uses her mountain of poetic and insightful writing skills to take us inside the most heart-wrenching story of her life.

Dignitas is the name of the organization that made Brian’s death possible. And the book captivates its audience with Bloom’s honest and specific timeline of the steps that take them from their courtship to marriage to the sickness part of their wedding vows. As Brian begins to realize that he is never going to turn a page backward and get better, he mentions to his wife that he would prefer to find his own way out of the situation. He chooses to die, and so the last adventure of their 12 years together begins, forward-moving and ever painful.

"...the most unsettling and most beautiful book I’ve ever read about loss.... Bloom uses her mountain of poetic and insightful writing skills to take us inside the most heart-wrenching story of her life."

Bloom is a brave writer who doesn’t shy away from the beauty of pain and anger. And love is an important topic for her, as it is for so many other writers. However, the love that she shows for Brian is not filled with silly adolescent girlish glee. Instead, during the year they fall in love, both give up other relationships and decide they need to live out the rest of their lives together. Clearly, the events recorded in this memoir were not expected.

The specifics of end-of-life decisions are messy and complicated, but they are usually not illegal. In only a handful of states in the US are people allowed to make such a choice. However, there are restrictions and requirements for those who are doing the assisting in assisted suicide. After looking at many unsuitable options, the Blooms find Dignitas and move toward their final moments together with a trip to Zurich for chocolate, goodbyes and Brian's last breath.

I stormed through this book, though this is not a subject with which I’m very comfortable. I’ve been working hard over the last two years to improve my attitude about death and dying. My son has decided to leave behind his famous liberal arts college and make safe, humane and green end-of-life counseling and processes his career path. The only experience I’ve ever had with assisted suicide is when the woman who starred in my student film actually allowed Dr. Kevorkian to send her on her way after getting news of debilitating medical issues. I know that most of us spend our time making sure that our loved ones are safe and healthy, so IN LOVE is not a book you are going to pick up lightly.

And yet, as hard as it is to comprehend emotionally, it is a tribute to Bloom and her husband that this beautiful book is here not only to memorialize a real-life marriage but to help us all be aware that we can help manage the end of our lives. Bloom’s pain and her many ways of expressing her sorrow as she puts the plan together with Brian can only make the rest of us realize that we can ensure dignity in death for our loved ones. Perhaps that is the most important takeaway from this deeply considered literary experience.

The fact that Amy Bloom could share with us the specifics of this journey and the love she valued beyond all else is a testament to her unique storytelling powers, and the balm that writing is to her and thus to us. The book resonates like a slow, soft siren with these most raw and meaningful experiences. She is a strong icon of the true beauty of love in its purest form. Read IN LOVE. It is an important story for a new and more compassionate era.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on March 18, 2022

In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss
by Amy Bloom

  • Publication Date: February 21, 2023
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0593243951
  • ISBN-13: 9780593243954