The Best Day the Worst Day: Life with Jane Kenyon
  • The Best Day the Worst Day: Life with Jane Kenyon
  • The Best Day the Worst Day: Life with Jane Kenyon

The Best Day the Worst Day: Life with Jane Kenyon

by Donald Hall
     
 

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A candid memoir of love, art, and grief from a celebrated man of letters, United States poet laureate Donald Hall

In an intimate record of his twenty-three-year marriage to poet Jane Kenyon, Donald Hall recounts the rich pleasures and the unforeseen trials of their shared life. The couple made a home at their New England farmhouse, where they rejoiced in rituals

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Overview


A candid memoir of love, art, and grief from a celebrated man of letters, United States poet laureate Donald Hall

In an intimate record of his twenty-three-year marriage to poet Jane Kenyon, Donald Hall recounts the rich pleasures and the unforeseen trials of their shared life. The couple made a home at their New England farmhouse, where they rejoiced in rituals of writing, gardening, caring for pets, and connecting with their rural community through friends and church. The Best Day the Worst Day presents a portrait of the inner moods of "the best marriage I know about," as Hall has written, against the stark medical emergency of Jane's leukemia, which ended her life in fifteen months. Between recollections of better times, Hall shares with readers the daily ordeal of Jane's dying through heartbreaking but ultimately inspiring storytelling.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"An account of her illness, their life together, and the calming landscape of New England...a gem." USA Today

"A bright, wonderful book." --New York Observer

"A fearful and beautiful history." Boston Globe

"Elegantly and lovingly tells the story of their life together." --Christian Century

"Marriage, art, and illness are all treated with wisdom in Hall's account." New York Sun

"Haunting...The language is spare, clean, very readable." --Poetry

"[The Best Day the Worst Day] aims to show us the sacredness of the everyday, the magical qualities of the circle of life...Hall is such an evocative writer." --Book World The Washington Post

"[A] moving portrait of marriage." The Miami Herald

"Hall has turned his pain into art that can inspire and help others deal with loss." The Oregonian

"Hall portrays the creative, peaceful life [he and Jane Kenyon] carved out for themselves...A moving tribute, unsparingly honest." Kirkus Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"Jane Kenyon died of leukemia at 7:57 in the morning, April 22, 1995" is the first sentence of this unsparing and beautifully structured memoir. She was only 47, and the struggle was harrowing, but it followed 23 years of an extraordinarily happy marriage between poets, blissful despite the difference in their ages (19 years; she had been his student), and her illness and chronic clinical depression. Alternating with the meticulous account of the progress of Kenyon's disease are warm, joyful chapters as Hall recalls their time together. They lived quietly in a New Hampshire farmhouse that had been in Hall's family for generations, "the house of poetry, which was also the house of love and grief; the house of solitude and art; the house of Jane's depression and my cancers and Jane's leukemia." As increasingly famous poets, Hall and Kenyon traveled, on reading tours around America and abroad. Hall's impressions of China, Japan and especially India, which they both loved, make vivid reading. Also glowing are the portraits of friends, relatives and the caregivers who crowded into their lives. Hall wrote about Kenyon's illness and death in his 1998 book of poems, Without, but this heartfelt memoir should reach people who seldom read poetry and could be a natural for reading groups. Agent, Gerald McCauley. (May 1) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Intimate, excruciating memoir of the life and death of his wife, poet Jane Kenyon, by prolific author Hall. Hall (Willow Temple, 2003, etc.) segments his story into periods of the couple's 23-year marriage, starting from Kenyon's terrible early death from leukemia in April 1995 and reaching back to their first in meeting, in 1969, at the University of Michigan, where Hall taught literature and Kenyon, more than 20 years younger, was a student and fledgling poet. Most of their married life was spent rustically at the Hall's family farm in Wilmot, N.H., where the two cultivated gardens, wrote poetry, worked freelance and experienced a kind of reclusive solidarity next to each other. Curiously, their harmonious life of poetry was documented only the year before Kenyon's death by Bill Moyers in the PBS broadcast A Life Together. But Kenyon's diagnosis with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) changed everything, and she underwent immediate and devastating chemotherapy, a steady infusion of poisons and drugs through her Hickman incision, intractable pain and enervating side effects, such as dementia and depression, that compounded her existing depression. The prognosis is poor for a woman of 46 (ALL usually strikes children), and Kenyon endured an agonizing bone marrow transplant in Seattle from an anonymous donor (whom Hall later met). For 15 months, the inseparable couple battled the disease raging in Kenyon's blood: Hall depicts their kinship poignantly, sparing few details of human fragility and debilitation. The days of Kenyon's virtual imprisonment inside a sterile cell (her LAF room, for "laminar air flow"), while she was pumped with a steady flow of poisonous Cytoxan, reads like a scenein a death chamber. "Rarely, during LAF, could I do something useful for Jane," Hall laments. In alternating chapters, he portrays the creative, peaceful life the two carved out for themselves, both of them dedicated to their craft. A moving tribute, unsparingly honest. The harrowing close is almost unreadable. Author tour

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780618773626
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
11/08/2006
Edition description:
None
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
580,470
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.80(d)

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