The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty

Overview

When she was young, distinguished author and critic Carolyn Heilbrun solemnly vowed to end her life when she turned seventy. But on the advent of that fateful birthday, she realized that her golden years had been full of unforeseen pleasures. Now, the astute and ever-insightful Heilbrun muses on the emotional and intellectual insights that brought her "to choose each day for now, to live." There are reflections on her new house and her sturdy, comfortable marriage; sweet solitude and the pleasures of sex at an ...
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Last Gift of Time

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Overview

When she was young, distinguished author and critic Carolyn Heilbrun solemnly vowed to end her life when she turned seventy. But on the advent of that fateful birthday, she realized that her golden years had been full of unforeseen pleasures. Now, the astute and ever-insightful Heilbrun muses on the emotional and intellectual insights that brought her "to choose each day for now, to live." There are reflections on her new house and her sturdy, comfortable marriage; sweet solitude and the pleasures of sex at an advanced age; the fascination with e-mail and the joy of discovering unexpected friends. Even the encroachments of loss, pain, and sadness that come with age cannot spoil Heilbrun's moveable feast. They are merely the price of bountiful living.

Carolyn Heilbrun--distinguished author and scholar, happily married mother of three, and grandmother--tells why she had always resolved to take her own life at the age of 70 and the reasons that led her to negotiate, day by day, the choice to live instead. 220 pp. National ads & publicity. 20,000 print.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The word "gift" in German means "poison" and, to a linguist, the title might imply some bitterness. Heilbrun, former Columbia University English professor and noted literary critic, is a woman who obviously chooses her words well. Threading through the 15 essays is the theme of her youthful intention to commit suicide when she turned 70; several of the chapters convey the tone of an apologia for not having done so. The essays reflect and resonate with the general female experience of growing old: comfort in established family and home, loss of socially construed femininity, and a certain resentment at having been too often ignored or dismissed by the prevailing (male-dominated) culture. Heilbrun (The Education of a Woman) concedes that the past was probably not better than the present, only different, and looks to the young, especially her children, to teach the significance of those differences: "Those gentler times to which we old hark back imprisoned and excluded too many of us." In her most poignant chapter, "The Family Lost and Found," Heilbrun tells of her rediscovery of the courageous and intelligent immigrant women who were part of her father's family, although he had not seen fit to tell his only daughter about them. Her rediscovery of that lost half of her family, late in her life, was both encouraging and bittersweet. Heilbrun offers observations and stories, not lessons or polemics, but she is a perceptive witness to the vagaries of life. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Heilbrun (The Education of a Woman, LJ 11/1/95) will also be known to many readers as mystery writer Amanda Cross. In these essays, on knowledge gained in her fifties and sixties, she often refers to "unmet friends," as the reader feels toward her persona here. The pace is suitably reflective, but this in no way diminishes her clarity, humor, or deeply held feminist conviction. Among other topics, Heilbrun examines the unexpected pleasures of E-mail, her love for her dogs, a declaration of freedom from dresses and heels, the perils of finally getting a longed-for "room of one's own," her relationship with poet May Sarton, appreciation for the wisdom of the young, and the company of men. Heilbrun decided years ago to end her life at 70 but now chooses to live each day that comes. These essays bear witness to her continued reasons for doing so. Recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/96.]-Barbara Hutcheson, Greater Victoria P.L., British Columbia
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345422958
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/28/1998
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 186,152
  • Product dimensions: 5.13 (w) x 7.96 (h) x 0.51 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2000

    The gift is great, though the book be small

    At one point in time, back in the Women¿s Lib days, I suspect Carolyn Heilbrun was considered one outrageous woman. Now in her respectable 70¿s she gives us other aging women an inspiring gift in writing the slim volume The Last Gift of Time. I¿m not even to my 60th decade yet¾the age of which she writes¾and I love this book! She does none of the wailing that characterizes some older women¿s writings. Au contraire, Ms. Heilbrun is still dancing for joy, to use her own expression, in spite of time¿s passage. I like this person who is maintaining a 'carefully directed intensity'about her intellectual life. She¿s not going to 'draw in' as she grows older. In fact, her chapter on e-mail is a great sales pitch for putting (as she suggests) a '. . .functioning computer tied to the Internet and e-mail in the home of everyone over sixty-five.' While we might not need permission to stop wearing heels and dresses, it¿s heartening to have such an unapologetic endorsement for adopting liberating clothing and even being a bit androgynous in our style! In only 15 short chapters, this wonderful woman shares her thoughts on everything from listening to youth to the inevitable mortality. In the jargon of the day, 'She rocks!' ##

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2012

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