Late-Life Love

Memoir by Susan Gubar | 2018, W.W. Norton and Company

Review by KATHY MEGYERI

On her 70th birthday, acclaimed author Susan Gubar receives a gorgeous ring from her husband, a reminder how late-life love is still so real, yet so vastly different from that experienced by young lovers.

Her husband, Don, 17 years her elder, suffers from age-related disabilities that have tossed her into the role of caregiver and will force them to move from their cherished country home to a downtown apartment.

The Pulitzer prize-winning, feminist scholar is not without her own challenges. In 2009, at age 65, she was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer and underwent “debulking” surgery in which she lost numerous organs including an appendix and part of her intestines. Still undergoing cancer treatments, she faces a
difficult year which includes finding a new apartment, dismantling a household, and juggling their lives and the needs of their children and grandchildren. It would be a daunting task for a young person and she is in her early 70s.

As her husband becomes less communicative, Gubar, a distinguished Professor Emeritus of English and Women’s Studies at Indiana University, turns to her old friends – some of the greatest authors ever, to find comfort and answers about this stage of life. Shakespeare, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, John Donne, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and James Joyce oblige, and she shares their wisdom, insight, solace, comfort and renewal
with her readers.

The result is a deeply personal “meditation memoir.” It is one that celebrates late-life love and desire, the value of time left together, and second chances. It paints a multi-dimensional picture of old love with all the blemishes and glories that come with aging bodies and minds, inheritance issues, retirement, adult children, financial decisions, downsizing and more.

Along the way, it leads to some meaningful conclusions including that “we cling to love as a shield against error and degeneration,” and “young lovers cannot imagine the people they will become, but old lovers remember what they have been.”

Old age is a time to come to terms with divesting ourselves of stuff” and reinvesting ourselves in what remains, Gubar notes.

And she profoundly states that “those of us who are old have many
different ages within us, all of which must be numbered.”

What a gift from an amazing author who in my eyes will never age because
we both realize the power of literature, a strong, lasting marriage and especially
late-life love.

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