Publishers Weekly 2004
June 21, 2004
Linda McK. Stewart. Other Press, $22 (288p) ISBN 1-59051-130-1
Stewart’s second husband, Jack, worked for 34 years as a New York Times editor, launched a respected African news journal and pleasantly retired into a late career as a part-time literary agent. One autumn afternoon, with barely any warning, he began to exhibit undeniable symptoms of Alzheimer’s, which changed everything for him and his wife. Stewart’s straightforward, deeply felt memoir of the ensuing 25 months couldn’t have been an easy story to tell, much less write and rewrite into this solid and often poignant book, but it’s a strong narrative testimonial to her husband and his last months. Stewart leaves no doubt of her affection for Jack; her characterization of him nears hagiography. Yet this was a second marriage for both, and there’s scant information as to why the first ones failed. Stewart also has considerable experience as a freelance travel writer and draws on that expertise in the book’s heart, when her husband’s memory has become irrevocably fragmented. For example, some random comment of Jack’s connects with Stewart’s memories of their travels to the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania to visit Louis and Mary Leakey. This mixing of Jack’s present-day deterioration with Stewart’s precise memories begins to promise something more, but the book soon returns to the conventional, month-by-month story of Jack’s worsening condition, and the sad, simple story of a solid marriage coming to an end.