Book Review: What’s Better Than This?

In her debut memoir, author Lorraine Salmon turns tragedy into triumph by writing about it. If this sounds like a simplistic prescriptive for grief, it might be just that. Sometimes magic is simple.

Consider the plot: She meets the love of her life as they’re both facing whatever comes after midlife. Their magnetic attraction to each other constitutes a scenario right out of a steamy, sexy romance novel. But the happily-ever-after premise of the story crashes down when her lover is suddenly diagnosed with cancer. He dies, but not until their hot passion becomes a months-long expression of forever-after commitment to living together as fully as possible, until the end.

Before Tom Mackey dies, he tells her she should write their story. How can she even think such a thing as she moves him out of a less-than-healthy bachelor apartment and into a cozy place they can share for awhile? How can she conceive of sitting at her computer to type the heartfelt words they say to each other in intimacy? How can she describe her response to his pain and suffering without making it maudlin? And who will read it?

What isn’t simple about Salmon’s writing of this account is, of course, the very act of processing her grief by expressing it in words on a page. It didn’t come easy. Difficult months went by before she could pull herself out of sorrowful depression. When she finally began to write, transforming what happened into an artful, compelling tale that brings readers to their knees with tissues in hand turned out to be therapeutic.

Writing affected how she now holds the experience for herself—a tragedy, yes. One she’d rather not have endured. But in sharing it so deftly, Salmon touches on the triumph of human spirit. She demonstrates taking action and going beyond what she ever thought was humanly possible to care for him. She shares her sensitive trepidation at the prospect of knowing his adult sons may someday read the book and be privy to their father’s private life. She opens a heart full of loss and lets it all flow out.

“What’s better than this?” is a phrase her lover Tom Mackey murmured often while in the throes of their mutual happiness. To have translated that sentiment into the key take-away from her experience is testimony of Salmon’s own spirit and talent as a writer. It’s a good read.

Lorraine Salmon is a self-taught consultant/developer of over $100M is real estate projects, an Arbonne Independent Consultant, and a college advancement officer at SUNY Ulster. The mother of two grown daughters and grandmother to five, she is now working on her second memoir. (www.lorrainesalmon.com)

Ann Hutton