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.