So reads the opening quote from Carole Radziwill's memoir, What Remains. A memoir I picked up on recommendation from one of my most trusted fellow book lovers (so trusted I bought the book without first reading a summary or even asking about the content!). Carole writes about her husband, Anthony Stanislas Albert Radziwill, who was the cousin of JFK, Jr. He died in 1999 after a five year battle with cancer, and three weeks after the shocking plane crash that took the lives of JFK, Jr and Carolyn Bessette.
As I read this memoir I was first caught off guard by how much went on in their lives that I had never heard about. I really don't think I knew that JFK, Jr. died in a plane wreck or the fact that I couldn't have pointed out a picture of him. As has always been the case with me, I learn all of my history from reading stories, as opposed to straight nonfiction.
Of course, I was a little distracted around that time. 1999 was a big year for me. I was a 19 year-old junior in college, I had my first child that August, turned 20, and got married in January of 2000. Actually, Anthony Radziwill died four days before my daughter was born. I don't state all of this to be a tragedy whore (as Carole so aptly calls people who thrive on the drama of others, as if it is their own), but to think that while something so wonderful was going on in my life, someone else's was falling apart. Isn't that how it always is? The world does not stop and work according to the motion of your own life's events. It spins regardless. Realizing the clash in events between that time in their life and mine reminds me to be aware of the lives that are lived out around me every day.
I appreciate Carole's book for the mere fact that she is so very honest about all feelings and thoughts. She answers my earlier post about honesty in writing...it is a must. My own husband has faced the reoccurrence of a non life threatening basil cell cancer three times over the past 8 years. Ironically the cancer is not as threatening as where it is located, the side of his face, where even a removal surgery can cause more damage sooner than the cancer itself. While I am grateful that we face a small battle in comparison to most dealing with cancer, I can appreciate Carole's talk about being in and out of hospitals and doctors in search of a better answer and maybe even a cure, learning all the jargon and becoming a part of a world you have no choice but to join.
The book I am currently reading is Fairy Tale Interrupted by RoseMarie Terenzio. Strangely, it is her memoir of working for JFK, Jr. for the five years before his sudden death. (I bought the two memoirs separately, not realizing at the time that What Remains had any connection to JFK, Jr. I don't believe in coincidences.) Terenzio paints a great picture of her life with this part of the Kennedy family. And her descriptions of them match so well with Carole Radziwill's that I can't help but think I know them somehow.
This is why I read. Books open the world and connect you to reality, make you question life, in ways nothing else ever can.
How have you experienced life through books?