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The Rooms of Heaven [Kindle Edition]

Mary Allen
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.95
Kindle Price: $9.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

"A love story, a memoir, a haunting tale of grief and healing. This book is all that and more." --Chicago Tribune

In the tradition of Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted and Caroline Knapp's Drinking: A Love Story, Mary Allen tells a riveting love story that explores the uncharted territory between passion and  addiction, grief and madness, this world and the next.

When Mary Allen falls in love with Jim Beaman, she doesn't know he has a drug problem, but she does sense demons and angels around him, like "a disturbance in the air, a sound just beyond the register of human hearing." And when Jim--discouraged and depressed, struggling with his addiction--kills himself a year into their relationship, Allen is unable to let him go. In her desperate attempts to recover from the loss, she uses a Ouija board and automatic writing to pull back from reality into the dark recesses of her mind, where she believes she can find him. The result is a mesmerizing trip across the boundaries between this world and the afterlife, a journey that leads her to the brink of insanity and ultimately back to herself.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews Review

Although this is billed as a memoir, a more accurate label might be spiritual autobiography. After Mary Allen's drug-addicted boyfriend, Jim, commits suicide, she enters the classic dark night of the soul, confronting the denials as well as the truths that existed prior to her beloved's suicide. A less courageous author might have stopped there, but Allen has the guts also to reveal her mental anguish and psychiatric institutionalization. She delved into the underworld of the afterlife, desperate for connection with her boyfriend's spirit.

Although Allen does not dismiss the possibility of "Summerland," a spiritualist term for the afterlife, she stays grounded in her personal experience with contacting Jim's spirit, instead of making sweeping assertions about the hereafter. The effect is engrossing and at times laugh-aloud funny. Overall, Allen's narrative rings with dignity--clearly the voice of an accomplished, award-winning writer as well as a woman who has risen from the ashes of a lover's suicide and codependency (a cliché she skillfully avoids lingering over) to become a person who can finally love with ferocity and self-respect intact. --Gail Hudson

From Publishers Weekly

Allen's memoir is both confessional and therapeutic in tone. It begins in the summer of 1989, when she was employed as an editor in Iowa City and fell in love with Jim Beaman, a neighbor who worked in construction. Allen details the first blissful months of her relationship with Beaman and then charts how it all fell apart because of his inability to kick an intravenous cocaine habit. Despite Allen's efforts to deny the seriousness of Beaman's drug problem, his hospitalization after a binge, his abusive language and wild mood swings forced her to face the hopeless nature of his addiction, which ended with his suicide the following January. Allen describes her astonishing behavior during the months following Beaman's death, when, driven by an obsessive desire to contact her dead lover in the afterlife, she conducted experiments with a Ouija board. These led her to fill notebooks with automatic writing,characterized by meaningless squiggles that she believed were conversations with Beaman and other spirits. Eventually, Allen consented to a short, voluntary commitment to a psychiatric ward, where she was given lithium. She looks back on that period as necessary to her grieving and, although no longer beset by communications from the spirit world, does not discount the existence of an afterlife. Despite the subtitle, Allen doesn't go off the deep end in her treatment of an afterlife. Most of the book deals with her relationship with Beaman, which Allen renders in prose that's long on lyricism and descriptive virtuosity but short on psychological insight into either herself or her lover. 50,000 first printing.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 415 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (July 27, 2011)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #707,565 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No New Age Nonsense Here! July 20, 1999
By A Customer
Mary Allen has written an important book about drug addiction, its effect on the life of not just the addict, and how "co-dependency" makes it all that much "easier" for the addict and those are closest to the addict, continue on their destructive paths. Then Ms. Allen describes to us her own brief visit into the realm of mental illness and her obsessive search for what ever remains of her ill-starred love, Jim Beaman, as a spirit or "shade". To have revealed as much as Ms. Allen has about her own problems took a great deal of courage, I think. If the reader is looking for a lot of "New Age" nonsense about the afterlife and her experiences in attempting to contact the spirit of Jim Beaman, you won't find it here! If Ms. Allen is anything at all, it's thoughtful and level-headed. She is not prone to flights of New Age fancy . But she does show us just how ephemeral the human spirit can be. I can't recommend this book too highly. It may not "satisfy" the "sensationalist seeking" reader fixated on learning all the "nuts and bolts" of Ms. Allen's attempts at after-death communication with the shade of her deceased lover, and just how successful she was. But this book was never intended to be that kind of book. It was written in a "literary style", it raises importatant questions of human spirituality, and is as "down-to-earth" as Ms. Allens' adopted Iowa.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Remarkable, Stunning Memoir April 12, 1999
By A Customer
The first half of Mary Allen's "The Rooms of Heaven," with its perfect sense of pace and detail, is one of the best openings to any memoir I've ever read. You'd have to look to Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes" or Tobias Wolff's "This Boy's Life" to find anything comparable. But, as remarkable as the opening is, it is the second half, with its rise into the afterlife, that goes beyond anything I've ever read, and here Allen has no rivals. I was completely blown away by this stunning memoir.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Mary Allen is a master. I am Jim Beaman, to great extent. I am addicted to most anything I like, and I KNOW how the PULL of the demons feels. Mary captures that...she knows it, as she was addicted to the addictive personality. She loved him. It shows. As does her aching, crying grief. And every point of human emotion along the wide scale. Her love of Iowa...and the University, and writing...all come to life, in this tale of death, despair...and return, recovery. Jim Beaman loved you, Mary. I do too.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A sad and very open story May 9, 2000
By A Customer
Mary Allen has written a very candid account of her love affair with an alcoholic cocaine addict that is, at times, so unguarded as to be embarassing. Why doesn't this intelligent, articulate woman take charge of her life and relationship? Love, and all of the inexplicable things it leads us to do, is the answer. I was engrossed by the first part of the book wherein Mary recounted the love affair and eventual suicide of Jim. The second half of the book, in which she recounts her search for answers rang true to me, as the surviver of a loved one's suicide, but was ultimately (and inevitably) unsatisfying. There are no answers out there.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing connection November 14, 2001
This book so moved me that I felt compelled to write to Mary Allen, though I've never written to an author before. I found my copy in a second-hand store. It drew me to it in much the same way that Mary's life had coincidences and connections that could not be predicted.
How can I say what affected me so about it? It wasn't that, 22 years ago, a close friend took his life, as Jim Beaman did. It wasn't quite because my ex had a bad relationship with cocaine. It was really that the honest telling of Mary's love and life with Jim was so true, in all its details.
I believe, as Mary does, in life after death. And I also believe in synchronicity, those strange seeming coincidences that catch us by surprise. Dreaming of a friend, and then she calls the next day, after years of silence. Learning a new word, and then you start seeing it everywhere.
One coincidence about this particular copy of the book took me totally by surprise. The book, of course, was used, so it had its former owner's name, in feminine script, on the first page. "N. [last name]," it read. When I flipped to the Acknowledgments section at some later point (it was dog-eared), I saw Mary's last thank-you sentence: "... and John [same last name], who read the manuscript and listened to me talk about it so often he practically knows it by heart."
So this book has come to mean more to me than just the story, which is moving and sparkling enough. Although N. gave it away, I never will!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting and familiar January 29, 2005
I would also use the word haunting to describe this book. Haunting and gut-wrenching, and in a strange way, almost familiar in parts. As I read it, totally engrossed, I kept thinking "there, but for the grace of God....". The rather innocent beginning, in a college town in the midwest, reminded me of earlier days of my own, as well as the meeting of someone who is so appealing that it creates an instant bond. And then the mysterious stangeness of addiction, and the feeling that somehow you could make it all better, but can't. And then the second part, stranger than the first, but no less plausible, just that the author slid over the edge of 'rationality'. Mary Allen is a compelling writer, and a courageous one. I'm glad I read this book (twice), although it was an intense and occasionally an uncomfortable experience.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars This Book Will Stay with Me
I read a lot; so much that stories become blurred and the names of characters are often quickly forgotten. Read more
Published 19 months ago by JLamp
4.0 out of 5 stars I liked it. Good book.
good book. it kepted me interested and I normally get bored with a book and dont finish it. I finished this book in about a week. Read more
Published on July 24, 2010 by awdard123
4.0 out of 5 stars surprisingly interesting
I picked this up at the library never having heard of it and not expecting much. I was surprised at how interesting it was. Read more
Published on December 19, 2007 by a reader
4.0 out of 5 stars Would recommend
This for me was actually an engrossing read. The beginning I guess is what really sort of builds you up, because that is what keeps you reading on. Read more
Published on May 3, 2006 by Joseph
4.0 out of 5 stars Haunting memoir of addiction, love and grief.
Mary Allan tells quite a story about the love of her life, Jim Beamen. They have somewhat of a whirlwind romance and Mary starts to see that Jim has an addiction to cocaine. Read more
Published on November 8, 2002 by Deanne Kelley
4.0 out of 5 stars rooms of heaven
When I read the cover on Mary Allen's book, I expected a description of heaven revealed as a result of the death of her boyfriend. This, however was not the case. Read more
Published on September 2, 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars An intense story
I am very glad I found this book; it was superbly written and had a powerful story to tell. Mary Allen did an excellent job of bringing Jim Beamon into focus and in describing her... Read more
Published on August 28, 2001
1.0 out of 5 stars I wanted to like it, but....
I read this book because it was highly recommended by Jo Ann Beard who wrote an outstanding memoir that I loved. Read more
Published on October 2, 2000
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More About the Author

Mary Allen is a memoir writer whose themes are spiritual and psychological healing, love, memory, and the nature of life and death. She grew up in a tiny western Massachusetts town that had no sidewalks or streetlights. She has written about being the child of a mother who had severe maternal mental illness on the CNN website and in her memoir, Awake in the Dream House, for which she received a National Endowment for the Arts grant. Her memoir, The Rooms of Heaven, was recently named one of the best nonfiction books of 2014 by Tin House.


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